Coherence Screen 14 articles



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  • The Rod Serling tension Byrkit is angling for never quite arrives, nor does any real Borgesian frisson. But thanks to its social setting, it does offer a vivid and perhaps intentional satirical portrait of L.A. culture, where solid identities swap and get lost and seem always just out of reach... Coherence is abstracted sci-fi that couldn't happen, but it also couldn't have happened anyplace else.

  • Cowriter-director James Ward Byrkit is less confident fleshing out his characters beyond their one-trait stereotypes (the closet alkie, the twitchy New Ager, etc.). His premise has Buñuelian potential, but too often he settles for the shocks of a Twilight Zone episode. Only one unnerving sequence near the end—perhaps an alternate you is a happier you?—suggests the anxiety that this thinker might have mustered more thoroughly.

  • At some point, Mr. Byrkit turns one too many corners (characters, meanwhile, begin bustling in and out of rooms like Marx Brothers extras), and what began as a nifty puzzle feels more like a trap. It may be possible to unkink this story, but when characters and performances are as unengaging as these, it’s hard to feel motivated to try.

  • [Byrkit] makes metaphysics, rather than scientific cogency, the film's foundation, content to use Edwin Schrödinger's thought experiment as an engine to explore the alternate self, how every decision is a stepping stone to the here and now. And in spite of the gimmicky concept, the film remains emotionally acute, all the actors convincing as genuine friends prone to bouts of passive aggression, credibly reacting to the frenzied twists the story takes.

  • After the fundamental problem of “Coherence” has become clear, or clear-ish – there’s another dinner party, at that other house, that looks an awful lot like this one – the movie becomes slightly too much like an unfolding mathematical puzzle, although an ingenious one that reaches a chilling conclusion.

  • It's not a masterpiece, not by a long shot, but it does demonstrate a refreshing willingness to embrace the unknown, the implied, the mysterious. And while it takes a left turn near the end that some viewers might not like, you should at least give the movie credit for refusing to get complacent. This is a confident movie that feels like the first entry in career worth following.

  • I got actual chills later on, at key moments of revelation, as “This Person Is Not Who I Thought They Were” becomes very literal... Here’s the puzzle film at its purest: momentarily scintillating enough to bypass the banality of its players, a scenario whose adroit unfolding trumps the emotions it supposedly illuminates.

  • The brevity of the final credits tells a story: this is real low-budget filmmaking, made with a density of imagination that's entirely admirable (the claim that the dialogue is improvised is also pretty jaw-dropping, given its non-stop intricacy). Impressive commitment to low-tech fantasy, but maybe it's a bit too low-tech; playing everything off the talk and our heroes' reactions tends to reduce the situation to a theoretical problem...

  • Coherence isn’t growing on me, but it was fun while it lasted. Concept reigns: you don’t develop real attachment to any of the characters, but you do develop a sort of dependence on the narrative, and expend attention on fleshing out the particulars of Byrkit’s science-ish puzzlebox.

  • Coherence is more a speculative and elegantly chaotic sci-fi riff than a satisfyingly enclosed narrative, yet plaudits (and then some) are still due to its first time writer/director, James Ward Byrkit, as it's an insanely ambitious tale of a dinner party that quickly and unavoidably goes south.

  • No-budget drawing room sci-fi as probe into bourgeois mores. More caustic that it lets on, imagining miscommunications, mistrusts, and personal frustrations as extra-dimensional doubles. (Or, as the movie puts it, “If there a million different realities, I’ve slept with your wife in every one of them.”)

  • Shot over five nights in a single location, and almost entirely improvised, Coherence is no-budget filmmaking at its most delectably inventive. Byrkit’s résumé includes a lot of work in the art department on Gore Verbinski’s films, plus a story credit and voice work on Rango,but there’s no trace of Hollywood in this lean, cerebral puzzler, which trusts viewers to pay close attention to offhand lines and briefly glimpsed objects to piece together what’s happening.

  • The characters in Coherence feel natural, distinct, like people we might actually know. Director James Ward Byrkit strikes such a beautiful balance here it feels like a magic act: We get wrapped up in the dinner party itself, but we also know that the comet isn’t just color. We know something’s going to happen. But we don’t quite know what, and Byrkit even dares to have fun with this anticipation.

  • Delicately poised between control (Byrkit’s storyline) and chaos (the improv acting), Coherence so energetically manages a near-cacophony of ideas and information that it all but implodes under its own density – and that too is appropriate to its premise. Coherence suggests that all fictional universes are parallel universes in any case, and that our own universe is as much a fiction, perhaps even a pre-written drama, as any other.

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