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COHERENCE (review)

Written and Directed by James Ward Byrkit
Staring Nicholas Brendon, Emily Baldoni and Maury Sterling

Hugh: My brother, he said if anything strange were to happen while the comet is passing over, that we should stay inside and I should try to contact him.

Imagine being at a dinner party, surrounded by your friends, perhaps your significant other is there as well; the drinks are flowing and the food is fantastic. Then, something happens; you can’t be entirely sure, but all of a sudden the people you thought you knew seem different somehow. Paranoia hits you hard and you begin to believe those around you are complete strangers and nothing makes any sense. James Ward Byrkit’s first theatrical feature film, COHERENCE, conveys just that scenario, creating tension and confusion for both the film’s characters and its audience. Think INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS reimagined as a parlour thriller.

On a night when eight friends have gotten together for a dinner party, a comet also happens to pass over the Earth. As the guests try to deal with the awkwardness of one of the guest’s date, and the tensions between ex’s and the rather typical drama between friends, they begin to discuss historical cases of comets and their psychological effects on us as they pass over us. Strange things have been occurring all night, like the screens of cell phones breaking for no particular reason or there just being no cell service at all, when suddenly the power cuts out and the group of friends is left in complete darkness, except for a house two blocks up that still seems to have power. When Amir (Alex Manugian) and Hugh (Hugo Armstrong) go to the neighbouring house to see if they could use a phone, this is when things begin upon their downward spiral. Items seem out of place, old friends are acting odd, and there seems to be another group of people outside also searching for answers.


The cast is small, consisting only of the eight dinner guests, and each of the actors does a great job portraying their insecure, over-indulgent and paranoid selves. Nicholas Brendan (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Criminal Minds) finally finds a film role in something that is actually watchable. Meanwhile, relative unknown, Emily Baldoni, stands out among the other indie actors as the strongest in the group, even if at times she is channeling Brit Marling from her superb film, ANOTHER EARTH, but I digress. The dialogue amongst the friends seems natural (despite the unnatural subject matter) and with the help of the constantly shaking camera work, it feels as though we are secretly privy to this bizarre happening. There are a few special effects used in this sci-fi thriller, but it’s just the right amount, allowing the story to rely on the dialogue to help the group figure out this insane situation they have found themselves in.

To say too much about the plot of COHERENCE would be a disservice; this metaphysical thriller is confusing to say the least, but it is also increasingly engaging, as more secrets begin to reveal themselves. Slowly, the group discovers what is happening and figure out what exactly can be done about this Twilight Zone-esque situation they are now in. As anxiety rises between the group, the suspense for us viewing the drama unfolding heightens as well. Not knowing what the next turn will bring or how exactly the story will end is testament to Byrkit’s crafty screenplay and sneaky direction. As each of the characters starts to lose trust in their friends and what they think they know, we also start to question what we have seen as real. COHERENCE is a mind-bending little puzzle of a film that will keep you guessing right until the very end. It’s easy to get lost while watching, but getting lost in this film is so worth it.

4 sheep


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