Coherence, film review: James Ward Byrkit's witty sci-fi drama is doubly satisfying

(15) James Ward Byrkit, 89 mins. Starring: Emily Foxler, Maury Sterling, Nicholas Brendon, Elizabeth Gracen

Geoffrey Macnab
Friday 13 February 2015 01:00
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Cranking up the tension: Emily Foxler stars in Coherence
Cranking up the tension: Emily Foxler stars in Coherence

James Ward Byrkit's sci-fi drama is both nostalgic (it harks back to The Twilight Zone) and refreshingly original in the way its story incorporates – and satirises – modern technology. There is also a hint of Buñuelian Surrealism in its portrayal of the same dinner party taking place in parallel worlds that are somehow colliding. The central conceit isn't especially original but Byrkit's treatment of it is atmospheric and witty.

The dinner-party guests, affluent thirtysomething types in a house in Santa Monica, notice a series of increasingly strange occurrences as a comet passes by. The electricity goes on the blink. Their mobile phones crack, their internet connection is lost. Most disturbing of all, they discover what appear to be multiple doppelgängers of themselves.

Byrkit throws in all the references to physics and shock tactics (abrupt noises, jarring cuts) that might be expected in a typical B movie. The music cranks up the tension. The film is shot handheld, like a fly-on-the-wall documentary. One of its strengths is the attention it pays to character. Scrape away the sci-fi trappings and this emerges as a caustic, closely observed drama about some narcissistic California types with obvious tensions in their lives that are only heightened when normal routines are disrupted.

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