I admire the idea of Coherence. Writer/director James Ward Byrkit presents a dinner party. And then sci-fi happens. The premise is a bit forced and unfortunately too familiar these days. But Byrkit builds it to a powerful sequence of someone literally peering into windows at all her possible lives, like Dickens’ Scrooge adrift without a guide in a Jorge Luis Borges story. It’s the quantum physics equivalent of trying to remember where you parked your life. Yes, Schrodinger’s Cat has a cameo.
Among similar puzzle movies, this one ranks above the laughably bad +1 and the merely bad Mine Games, but nowhere near Duncan Jones’ Moon and slightly below Mike Cahill’s Another Earth. Coherence is in dire need of a Britt Marling. Because the script, as it is, taxes the actors’ improvisation skills a bit too much as the aggressively handheld camerawork scrambles to keep up. In place of a sense of craft, there’s a sense of the director trying to throw a net over whatever he can catch while the actors wait for someone to tell them to stop talking. But the actors are likable and mostly convincing. At least Coherence didn’t go the found footage route.
For a better example of how to wring intriguing science fiction from a dinner party, I recommend director Richard Schenkman’s adaptation of a Jerome Bixby play called The Man from Earth. It’s focused, filler-free, and probably not what you expect.
Coherence is currently in limited release.