Coherence is a 2013 science fiction thriller indie film directed and written by James Ward Byrkit. It is so much more than what the sypnosis and trailer shows us. I had no idea what I was going to watch. All I knew was that it was a recommended sci-fi thriller. After 15 minutes I was glued to the screen and as the plot developed, I became addicted as the mystery kept growing and feeding my curious mind. What an exciting mind trip! The film has only 8 actors and 95% of the film is inside one house. That leaves the characters to carry the film and wow, they succeeded phenomenally! Truly one of the best science fiction and mind-baffling films I have ever seen. This is the type of film you watch many times, and each time you discover something new.
!!! SPOILERS AHEAD !!!
In the beginning, you’re thinking, “What the hell is going on?” and you hope that you’ll figure it out soon; but it’s not that easy. Throughout the movie I kept thinking that.
Is it really the comet? Oh wait maybe it’s the drug Beth made, and the fact that they all took it could result in Beth forgetting it and denying it. But no, not quite. Soon it was clear that they were dealing with alternate universes. Parallel realities. But the box they found, had already been filled with the item (in this case a ping-pong paddle) and the numbered photos, which made me think it could have a time-traveling twist, but it just means that the other house investigated faster.
Everything that we saw the original 8 friends doing, is what their alternate versions were also doing, hence the boxes and the notes on the doors. But we have to remember something important. Every time they went outside, they walked through a dark area in the street. When they did that they entered a parallel reality. Which is what we see for the first time when they walk back and see their alternate versions across the street with red glow sticks. So when Hugh and Amir first went out to go to the only lit up house, they walked through the, let’s call it a “portal,” and found a box outside the house and where Hugh injured his eyebrow when he became startled from seeing the exact same dinner table inside.
You may be wondering how, by entering one reality, they can turn around and still return to their original house. By the way this is only my interpretation. What I believe happens is that they walk back, through the dark area or portal and return to their original reality and house. But because of the infinite number of universes and variables, this doesn’t mean that an alternate version of them can’t come through that same portal and knock at their door, which does happen. I am not sure how consistent one dark area/portal is because at one point we have each friend from a different reality together in one room when they mention different items from the box they made. I think the more you use a portal, the more lost you get in other realities.
Near the end Em decides to leave the chaotic house she was in, and walks through the dark area many times as we see the different realities that she sees. She finally finds a house, the only one with the lights on and realizes that these calm versions have no idea how the comet has affected their reality creating the rifts in space.
And now the ending scene, the one that had me saying out loud, “No! It cannot end like that!” But with a big smile on my face as my mind tried to understand what it just saw. We know the original Em knocked out the other Em in the bathroom. In doing so, original Em’s ring falls off and she can’t find it so she grabs other Em’s ring and puts it on. She passes out and next scene is now morning. Outside, the car windshield is still smashed from the moment when she lured all friends out of the house and knocked out other Em. This means that things or realities did not settle back to the way they were. In the end, all realities collapsed into one, this one. This one is now the coherent reality. Kevin gives original Em the ring he found on the bathroom floor, the original ring from original Em but we can also see that original Em has other Em’s ring with her. Meaning if objects can survive the switch in reality– after all realities collapsed into one– does that mean so can a person? We never saw the other Em again or if she disappeared. We only know that Kevin got a phone call from an Em and looked at original Em with a suspicious look. That last scene is open for interpretation and I don’t have an answer from the limited facts but it definitely puts my brain to work.
This example of a film is what I believe is the true nature of acting. I read that the director had no crew or script for this project and “…instead of having a script, each actor was given a page of notes each day with their back story or sort of motivation for the night. But they wouldn’t know what the other actors had received so it had a very natural, very spontaneous collision of motivations that ended up being what you see on film;” These are true actors who can create this story and chemistry from small notes and just improvisation!
Last but not least, the soundtrack. I have almost fallen in love with Kristin Øhrn Dyrud’s score for this brilliant film! It’s dark and mysterious but it’s not frightening. It’s just right.
I also love how this was filmed. Handheld with no special effects or fancy camera work which makes it very intimate almost like a reality TV show about the lives of these people.
The film only made $102,617 USD but for an indie micro-budgeted one which was shot in just 5 nights, it did very good but I wish it had made half a million because it deserves it.
I can’t wait to watch this again with others and see the look on their faces as they figure out what is going on.
Thanks for reading my review!
– Nick Andersen