Coherence (James Ward Byrkit, 2013)

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Coherence, directed by James Ward Byrkit (2013).

Score: rather poor.

You don’t want to know a lot about the plot of Coherence, but so you get an idea of the kind of movie it is, it takes place almost entirely inside a house during a dinner party with eight guests. A comet is passing quite close to Earth that night and freaky things start happening.

Coherence has appeared in several lists for best 21st Century science-fiction movies, obscure science-fiction movies and low-budget science-fiction movies, but I find that it has a worldbuilding problem, is not very original at all and has maddening cinematography.

The movie was apparently mostly improvised, with the characters just given a paragraph with their character’s motivation, so the actors themselves were discovering the plot as they went. I’m sure it was terribly fun to shoot, but not so much to watch. That kind of experience is better suited for a room escape design or a roleplaying game, but not for a movie. If you want believable reactions, hire the best actors you can, but for goodness’ sake, don’t sacrifice watchability for that. The camera is shaky, unfocused at times and has terrible angles. Some reality shows are better shot than this, really. And apparently it was all done so the actors could move around freely.

***SPOILERS***

Coherence is a multiverse science-fiction story. That reality unfolding is apparently caused by a… yes, a comet. If you want an excuse for a multiverse adventure, a comet is probably the worst choice you can make because it’s too close to astrology. Why would a small rock cause quantum incoherence, precisely around a particular house in Silicon Valley? Having no explanation would be much better than this explanation. Furthermore, the comet is used as an excuse for the characters to be nervous and scared when there is a blackout. The problem is that the comet sets a theme completely different from multiverse and evil counterparts. A comet evokes aliens, an impact, mass extinctions, definitely not evil counterparts waving red glowsticks around.

There’s nothing wrong in writing in a subgenre that has existed for a long time and is well-established, the problem is that Coherence is not a very memorable example of its genre. It spends half its first act spooking its characters and the audience with the comet, the other half of its first act establishing the rules, and then has an acceptable second act establishing that they are all pretty much mixed up. The whole unraveling is fun to watch, though predictable, but in the end it can be summed up as: they screwed up because they went into another universe and now they won’t be able to get back. I did enjoy how the boxes, numbers and random objects were given a meaning, while at the same time incoherences were made obvious everywhere. It was not too explicative but fairly easy to understand.

All in all, not the hidden gem some say it is.

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