Micro-budget, character-driven sci-fi from James Ward Byrkit
Coherence suggests that the thing which should scare us the most is our own potential, presenting us with a carefully crafted exploration of this unsettling notion. With its quantum mechanics-referencing title and Twilight Zone-style plot, it's a mind-bender par excellence for those who know that, given the relative artistic freedom, micro-budget indie fare is often the perfect home for big ideas and science-on-screen.
It sees old friends - including Em (Emily Baldoni) and Kevin (Maury Sterling) – gather for a dinner party at the home of troubled TV actor Mike (Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Nicholas Brendon) and his wife Lee (Lorene Scafaria), as a comet passes overhead. The tangled relationships and tensions hint at the dark potential of each of the eight players, before a series of unexplained events adds a dangerous dimension to their secrets and lies. As things get worryingly odd, the question ultimately becomes: who has the most to fear from their worst self?
Writer-director James Ward Byrkit's confident debut is a genre picture with ample appeal for those who, ordinarily, don't like sci-fi; he eschews effects in favour of character-based drama, setting his film in a mere sliver of suburbia (it's primarily shot in his own home), and drawing credible, largely improvised performances from the entire ensemble. Coherence makes its focus the encroaching paranoia, deteriorating group dynamic and re-emergence of personal demons. Chills come from simple sources, with prosaic items such as handwritten notes and photographs lent nerve-shredding significance by the creepy context, while threats come from those close at hand.
Coherence recalls the demented dinner party of Buñuel's The Exterminating Angel, while more modern precursors include the weird world of Shane Carruth, the Spanish thriller Timecrimes, Denis Villeneuve's Enemy, Christopher Smith's Triangle, and Mike Flanagan's Absentia. And by presenting its ideas in a well-structured, appealingly fleshed-out fashion it lives up to its name in more ways than one.
Selected release from Fri 13 Feb.