“Some of Coherence‘s admirers will likely accuse me of not ‘getting it’. My response would be that there doesn’t appear to be very much to get in the first place.”
by Ken B.
This movie annoyed me on so many levels. Whereas films like Upstream Color combine low-budget high-concept sci-fi with an interesting technique, Coherence combines a handful of somewhat intriguing ideas with nauseatingly choppy editing, irritating characters, and a plot not worth caring about. The only reason I watched the entire 89 minutes of James Ward Byrkit’s production was because I committed to write a review of it – had I just stumbled across it on my own accord, I can’t guarantee I wouldn’t have shut it off after maybe half of that time.
Some of Coherence’s admirers will likely accuse me of not “getting it”. My response would be that there doesn’t appear to be very much to get in the first place. There is a plot, which is one of the few positives I can lob at this movie. It is set in Los Angeles, on the night of the anticipated passing of a rare comet. A handful of couples with an overarching hipsterish vibe gather together for a dinner party. Weird stuff starts happening from minute one – people’s phone screens shatter for no reason at all. Both internet and cellular connections go out. Then the electricity of every house in the neighborhood goes out. Except one – a secluded residence at the end of the street. Could it just be that the owners have a good generator system? Nobody knows, so naturally a few characters go and check to see what’s going on, despite the growing surge of horror movie clichés that are building at home, most obviously knocking and pounding noises on the doors and windows that go unexplained. Upon their return, the story goes full Twilight Zone, introducing an odd depiction of parallel timelines and alternate selves.
You may notice that I fail to mention the name of a single character in the preceding paragraph. That is because their names are seemingly irrelevant – they are named, for sure, but barely. They’re mainly just types with stories, like an actor named Mike (Nicholas Brendon) who has the cheeky bit of exposition that he was a regular on the show Roswell in the ‘90s. What is it supposed to mean? Foreshadowing? Irony? Does it matter? And then there is Emily (Emily Foxler) who becomes deeply involved with the universe-bending plot twists in the second and third acts. But the most notable trait that the characters in this film collectively share is that as a group, they are profoundly terrible to watch. Their intents and ideas turn on a dime without any explanation. They act erratically and hypocritically, criticizing the actions of each other before saying that they would have done essentially the same thing in their shoes. I am told that the dialogue in Coherence was “largely improvised”, a technique that can often make or break a movie, especially one like this heavily built on plot and effect. Here, I think my opinion on it is rather clear – they yell and shout over each other, emulating realism at the cost of near-total comprehension.
And comprehension is a trait lost even further in the film’s maddening cinematography and editing. Shot on a grainy handheld, so any motion is guaranteed to become a jerky up-and-down blur of colors, the editing is even worse. It plays like whoever spliced this thing together just learned how their editing software worked, except for the part where you’re supposed to put clips together instead of leaving a five second blank space in between them, an approach which ensures any attempts at building plot momentum are rendered moot. I’ve created similar results when I was first learning Premiere Pro, except I went back and fixed it instead of finding an excuse to keep them in. I’m not implying that editor Lance Pereira or Byrkit didn’t know what they were doing – even worse, they did. I presume that the fits-and-starts effect is trying to establish a disconnect or some kind of confusion of the events onscreen, but take this eyesore that is present in some scenes and combine it with the shaky camera work and you have a movie that seemingly doesn’t even want to be visually coherent. Oops, I made a pun with the title.
I really, emphatically did not enjoy this, in case you couldn’t tell. Barely anything in it appealed to me in any way. The ideas and themes in the storyline were not altogether uninteresting, but the movie’s execution of them would make you think twice about that. But contrary to what I have told you, I was never compelled to check my watch throughout the proceedings. I was too spellbound by the fortitude and extent of the absolute visual and characteristic disaster happening onscreen for me to want to do anything else. I appreciate and respect Byrkit, his, cast, and his crew for making something that is at least original on a shoestring budget, but I do not appreciate the results of their labor. Obviously, I am in the extreme critical minority regarding Coherence, so it is possible that maybe there is something in here you may like. You may, as I alluded to earlier, get it. All I got was a headache.