Written by Shruthi
‘Coherence’ is a deliciously ironic title for this micro-budget sci-fi drama as this movie’s plot is incredibly convoluted. What starts off as a mundane dinner party of eight friends, with obvious strains in their group dynamic, slowly unravels to reveal the most complex of events leaving both the characters and the viewer questioning their very reality.
The co-writer of the Oscar-winning animated feature ‘Rango’ James Ward Byrkit artfully brings together human relationships and experimental cinematography, and marries it to classic science fiction. The story revolves around Em (Emily Baldoni) and her friends who convene for what they expect to be a night of food, wine and gossip, which is the unassuming preface of the movie. As the conversation builds forth, the topic of a comet that was scheduled to pass over them that night comes up. You can tell that this astronomical anomaly is a widely discussed topic as each character has something to say about it, including a paranormal theory or two. Suddenly, the lights go out and the chain of reality bending events begins.
Before you know it, the film is thrust into a fast paced, thrilling narrative. A character or two may have thrown about terms like Decoherence and Schrodinger’s Cat and slowly the audience realises that bigger things are afoot. Amidst all this chaos, Byrkit manages to portray each of the characters and their various dispositions perfectly. Scrape away the sci fi label and what emerges is a close observation of a worldly collection of thirtysomething: You’ve got the ballerina whose pride led to a missed chance at fame, a pretentious health nut, ex-flames who arrived at the dinner party with their respective others, and a one hit wonder actor. Now put the label back on and watch as each character gets artfully dissected as the story moves on. The movie’s elaborate plot allows for the story to really tinker with each character, giving them a plethora of variable situations and their corresponding potential reactions.
Coherence is one of those movies that manage to weave the most intricate of webs while effortlessly remaining grounded. Not once is the viewer ever bored by unnecessary narrative, and even the most clueless of audiences recognize that every scene, every shot, has a purpose in the grand telling of this tale. In fact, the movie gets so intricate, that every time someone so much as breathes, I had to jot it down in my notes, developed over the course of multiple viewings of the movie. All this is complemented by an incredible soundtrack, provided by Kristin Øhrn Dyrud (I highly recommend listening to Em’s Journey, it is a three-minute unsettling piece of music that paints a picture of a lone, impromptu journey through the infinite expanse of time and space).
In spite of the complexity, Byrkit astoundingly manages to make the movie pretty open ended. The film’s lack of a solid resolution will definitely put off some viewers, while the majority will sit back and appreciate the inventiveness of the brilliant narrative. Some, like me, will have the immediate urge to re-watch it, if only to better comprehend its puzzling plot.
This film aims to make us realise how truly vulnerable we are to the roulette wheel that is the universe through the narrative of a dinner party occurring in the midst of colliding alternate realities. Coherence achieves this and a degree of tasteful surrealism with the help of a gripping plot and well-developed characters that leaves the viewer wanting more.