Coherence is a movie that plays with some very big ideas — so big that you may not even notice that it was shot on a micro-budget. Most of the film takes place inside the same house (well, kind of). The cast is an ensemble of eight actors playing eight characters (again, kind of). It all centers on a dinner party featuring four couples with a few complicated relationships between them, some of which are known, some of which will be revealed. The dialogue is mostly improvised; the actors did not know what the film was about when they signed on. And though it starts off like a mumblecore-style talky relationship drama, the fact that a comet is passing by overhead eventually casts a dark pall over the wine-drinking and gabbing.
Emily Foxler plays Em (appropriately), a dancer whose pride recently cost her a starring role in the production that might have made her career. Emily and her boyfriend Kevin (Maury Sterling) show up to dine with five friends, which does not include Lauren, the outsider of the group who used to date Kevin but is now on the arm of Amir (Alex Manugian). The friends assemble at the home of Lee (Lorene Scafaria) and Mike (Nicholas Brendon of Buffy fame) who reveals to Laurie that he was on a popular TV series. No, not Buffy — it’s a show called Roswell, which may or may not be some kind of WB in-joke about the sci-fi high school series of the same name that aired during the Buffy era but did not feature Nicholas Brendon. (It actually starred Jason Behr, who played Ford on an episode of Buffy.) Also in attendance are Beth (Elizabeth Gracen), who brings along some ketamine just in case anyone needs some loosening up, and Hugh (Hugo Armstrong), whose brother warned him that something strange might happen tonight as a result of that comet.
Hugh’s brother was right.
It’s probably best not to know much more about what goes down in Coherence, but suffice to say it’s one of several movies this year in which doppelgangers play a major part. Alongside The Double and Enemy, Coherence is a bit of a mindfuck and also one of the most entertaining films of the year. Co-writer/director James Ward Byrkit knows how to make the most of his premise, unleashing a mind-bending thriller that manages to be surprisingly funny, and though nearly all of the action takes place in the same room (kind of), the story is never obviously making concessions for its budget.
It’s a little bit Twilight Zone, a pinch of Donnie Darko, the kind of storyline that would easily be at home in an episode Buffy (speaking of). It’s a lot of fun. And it deserves a wider audience than it will probably find when it opens this weekend. (There’s hope for a healthy life on VOD and streaming, one would imagine.) It offers the kind of no-pressure fun that a $200 million blockbuster just can’t.