FANTASTIC FEST 2013 MOVIE REVIEW – ‘COHERENCE’

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Exasperating.

That’s the one word that ran through my mind while watching James Ward Byrkit’s drearily dull low-budget mumblecore headtrip Coherence. Ten minutes haven’t even passed before tedium and enervated annoyance set in — and that’s the way the movie stays for the remainder of its agonizing 87 minute runtime. Attempting a cerebral, realistic and character-driven sci-fi tale, Byrkit supplies only a Primer for Dummies, placing thinly drawn and uninteresting characters in an intriguing but ultimately tedious and overly talky scenario where they spout endless expository dump dialogue about quantum physics in order to pass Coherence off as “smart”.

Coherence opens as a group of friends (including Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Nicholas Brendon — Xander!!! — in the film’s closest thing to a “name” actor) gathering for a dinner party the night Miller’s Comet is intended to pass overhead. Immediately Byrkit succumbs to the worst impulses modern independent cinema is prone to – The darting camera, banal dialogue and elliptical fade in-and-out editing—meant to convey a feeling of “you are there” naturalism—only plops us right in the middle of a group of yuppie, upper middle class, first-world-problem types with nothing interesting to say. It’s no fun to see someone else’s friends hang out, so why do indie films consistently try to convince us we want to watch that?

Byrkit sketches in the character’s various relationship entanglements — oh no, the group womanizer is bringing by the ex girlfriend of another partier, making that guy’s current squeeze (and leading lady, played by Emily Foxler) jealous! — before dumping us into the main gig: the comet makes the power go out, save for one house down the street. Hugh and Amir head down to check it out and return with a lockbox containing numbered photos of the party. Soon the appearances of doubles, talk about alternate realities collapsing on one  another and much bickering ensues. Much, much bickering ensues.

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In fact, that’s pretty much all there is to Coherence — bickering. Byrkit has made the decision to save money on his sci-fi conceit by making his film about characters arguing over what to do, who’s who, what’s happening next, etc. Taking place almost entirely in one living room, it’s a stagey, exhausting experience because a film like this needs interesting characters spouting intelligent dialogue to work and Byrkit supplies us with only underdeveloped ciphers spouting the clunkiest of dialogue. With little action, no one to latch onto, and the admittedly solid premise being reduced to dumbed down soundbites, we have nowhere to turn and the result is a grimly boring and vacuous experience. To their credit the actors do fine enough work, but it’s not enough to rise Coherence out of the mire.

Byrkit’s aim — intelligent, intellectual take on a sci-fi premise — is both clear and admirable, but the result misses by a wide mile. Dull, torpid, pointless and damn nigh unbearable, Coherence is an abject failure and not the birth of the next sci-fi talent.

1 out of 5 stars

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About Author

Johnny Donaldson

Johnny Donaldson is an actor, writer, foodie, and raconteur who’s been immersed in the geek world since childhood, especially when The X-Files changed his life. (Fox Mulder is his Han Solo.) A published film critic (his college-era movie reviews can be found in the archives of rottentomatoes.com) and a film producer with two films under his belt, Johnny likes kitty cats, coffee, the color purple (not the movie, the literal color purple), dark microbrews and good horror/scifi/fantasy and superhero movies. And occasionally long walks on the beach, when it’s not too hot.