Film review: Coherence has the kernel of something interesting but doesn't hold together

Simon Thomson
Emily Foxter indulges in some banal dinner party chat in Coherence

Cert 15 | ★★☆☆☆

Coherence is soft science fiction slush that simply doesn’t hold together. As four couples meet for dinner, a mysterious comet streaks through the heavens, cracking mobile phone screens, fracturing reality, and encouraging the kind of ill-informed, feng shui and quantum theory-tinged, new age, nonsense-strewn dinner party conversation that makes you hope for the end of the world.
The sudden appearance of doppelgängers could be the kernel of an interesting movie and the music works hard to generate suspense, but Coherence looks like a student film that was hurriedly shot with a shaky handheld camera in the director’s living room. And that’s because it was.
Coherence emerged from an experiment in barebones filmmaking, with director James Ward Byrkit probing to discover just how much, in terms of crew, budget, script and time, is necessary “to create a compelling and narratively ambitious project”. There is something admirable about the attempt to make a movie without the excesses of the studio system. Unfortunately, the results are shallow, derivative and underwhelming. Its greatest success is in realistically recreating the inconsequential back and forth of friends chatting about matters of no interest to anyone outside their group.
Although there was a rough plot outline, this was not made available to most of the actors, and their varying ability to improvise dialogue is evident. Casting panders to aficionados of 90s action-fantasy TV spin-offs, with the inclusion of Nicholas Brendon (Xander from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Elizabeth Gracen (Amanda from Highlander: The Series). A joke about Brendon’s character having been a series regular on another 90s genre favourite, the teen-alien drama Roswell, is a shameless if mildly amusing bit of fan service. Nevertheless, the film is generally humourless and exhibits a basic level of competence that would preclude enjoying it ironically. The only thought provoked by its inconclusive ending is, “Why did I sit through that?”

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