“This whole night we’ve been worrying… there’s some dark version of us out there somewhere. What if we’re the dark version?”
Much has been said about Karyn Kusuma’s dark mystery The Invitation in 2015. It became the dinner party thriller that people were talking about yet James Ward Byrkit’s Coherence (which was first released two years earlier) went largely unnoticed. It did gather some positive word-of-mouth around the festival circuit but this film was more dynamic and much more deserving of a wider audience.
Plot: A group of friends meet for an evening of chow and chat on the night that a passing comet flies close to the earth’s atmosphere. It’s an event that hasn’t happened for decades but also has the possibilities of some strange events occurring. The friends soon discover that they might be living in an alternate reality as fear and paranoia creep into their increasingly fraught and tension filled dinner party.
Shot on an impressive shoestring budget of $50,000 in one location and with an entirely unknown cast that improvised most of their lines. With this in mind, Coherence has a very strong chance of being an absolute disaster and a word of warning to all budding filmmakers in what not to do. However, it’s quite the opposite. Byrkit shows what the possibilities are when the writing is strong and you have a confidence in your approach. He has a fine and steady hand with his direction and delivers a taught, intelligent and hugely involving mystery in his feature debut. Coherence really has no right in being as good as it is but it absolutely works. It’s strengths lie in treating the audience with respect and you’re left in a position where you have to return the favour. It earns your admiration as it demands your attention to keep up with the twisted and, sometimes confusing, plot developments. That said, Byrkit doesn’t want to leave any of his audience behind, so he does take the time to explain his scientific and philosophical theories but he never loses sight of his brisk pace and he doesn’t forget that the film is essentially a complex puzzle – and a very good one at that.
There are some minor plot discrepancies here and there but these do not overshadow the sheer brilliance and execution of its genuis science fiction concept. A remarkably assured debut from a promising new directorial talent.
Trivia: Instead of the actors receiving scripts, they would each receive only a small paragraph (that only they would see) as their goal for the day. This allowed for the story to unfold naturally and create genuine reactions in the other actors.