EIFF Movie Review: COHERENCE

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Coherence Review

REVIEW: COHERENCE / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: JAMES WARD BYRKIT / SCREENPLAY: JAMES WARD BYRKIT / STARRING: HUGO ARMSTRONG, EMILY BALDON, NICHOLAS BRENDON, ELIZABETH GRACEN, LAUREN MAHER, ALEX MANUGIAN, LORENE SCAFARIA, MAURY STERLING / RELEASE DATE: TBA

When a group of friends have a dinner party on the night a comet soars through the sky, odd things start happening. First everyone’s phones are knocked out and then a blackout leaves them in pitch darkness, but it’s after they try to get help from the only house with power that things get bizarre. They see themselves within the other house, and from then on the certainty of truth and reality comes crashing down around them.

Coherence begins innocuously enough, the dinner party setting providing an intimate atmosphere and close enough environment for interpersonal dynamics to come forth with little effort, such as one guest bringing along his hot new girlfriend who is the ex of another whose wife remains a little insecure about her. But once the blackout hits, the number of mysterious occurrences begins to steadily increase, along with their intensity.

The story’s premise is partly explained utilising the popularised notion of Schrödinger’s Cat, a thought experiment from quantum mechanics suggesting that multiple and contradictory states of physical reality can theoretically exist concurrently until observed. The film’s title refers to quantum decoherence, which ensures different realities cannot interact with one another nor be perceived simultaneously, a law that the comet’s presence somehow shatters.

A spiritual cousin to Shane Carruth’s time travel headscratcher Primer, Coherence is less concerned with precisely how the split in reality occurred and more with the characters’ reaction to it, specifically the varying levels of existential crises they each undergo. The only other people out there are themselves, which in a mind-twisting way makes their actions even more unpredictable; how do you second-guess yourself? Since none of them are especially well-versed in the theory behind multiple universes (the many-worlds interpretation), they try to figure out the rules of the fragmented reality within the limits of their own comprehension of it, their growing understanding of what exactly is happening matching our own. Also, since we are no more clued into the precise nature of events than they are, the film generates an all too rare experience of genuinely not knowing what is going to happen. The only thing approaching an explanation is one character mentioning his physicist brother told him to call should anything odd happen on the night of the comet, but the truth behind what actually initiated the fracture is largely irrelevant. It’s the people that are the focus here.

When the true extent is revealed of just how many variant scenarios the comet’s path has fragmented reality into, you get the impression there is no limit to the possibilities, giving some choice observations such as “What if we’re the dark version?” or the hilariously ill-advised “If there are a million different realities, I have slept with your wife in every one of them.” While the single setting is close and personal (not to mention neatly keeping the film’s budgetary requirements down), at the same time it also feels somewhat oppressive and claustrophobic; although nobody wants to get away, even if they tried there’s no way they actually could as they’d end up right back where they started, while also being somewhere else.

Coherence is a film that warrants being seen multiple times. Watching it again when armed with all the facts will allow you to pick up on details you may have missed first time around, with subsequent viewings likely revealing even more of its mysteries.

Expected Rating: 7 out of 10

Actual Rating:


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