Coherence, 2013

© Oscilloscope Laboratories (US) & © Metrodome Distribution (UK)

I’m so glad I’m not high.

Of seemingly random acts or anomalies of nature, with the impulse to write numbers at the back of photographs; and all of it while the players improvise (evolve organically, unwittingly, even clueless until the final product; like tremendous piece of music) their way out of a predicament, which has not been penned as a script or a screenplay. It’s just there, like the passing of a mysterious comet (Miller‘s, maybe, they don’t say it out loud), like how director James Ward Byrkit and writer Alex Manugian smuggle an astute science fiction parable inside a dinner party, whose guests consists of lives unlived, dreams unfulfilled. The way the bunch is shown in the first few shots, the viewer can tell that all of them are pretty isolated within their own tiny reality, a reality that can use some upsetting, even perhaps even unnerved and all of it for their own good. It all reminds of Primer, 2004 and Timecrimes (Los Cronocrímenes), 2007.

The film tells us of the human need for identity and director Byrkit grants them that by directing a picture with distinct performances and naturalistic dialogue. Identity, affinity, even if only for a moment that would change the mood “from glad to sadness”; coupled with an astronomical, non-impact threat; a kind that arrests the viewer’s attention at the dinner table. We lean in to listen to every word that is said, every little gesture, made. Byrkit has us in a tight grip and pokes fun at his audience by smash cutting forward, an editing joke only someone who has full control of his audience can afford. A dinner party turning into something horrifying and strangely spectacular, bizarre and complicated, until a knock on the door shakes everyone up, actually makes them soil their undies.
I just wrote that
I just wrote that too
Did you see me writing this?
But you were out when you wrote that.

Sartre, Nietzsche, Dr. Iqbal and Emily Baldoni all come together in this film and sit down with director James Ward Byrkit and spin tales of parallel universes, the conscious existence of the other – which is more lived in than uncontaminated – the animal need to hold on to the individuality while simultaneously bad mouthing the (assumed?) other-self to protect this Mike (Nicholas Brendon) and his dinner guests from the other Mike and his dinner guests. Byrkit and his team of extraordinary filmmakers set a tone of ironic distillation. We can sense mundane and customary, as chimera sets in for a bit, however, it is immediately made to wear an intergalactic cloak that mystifies and throws the dinner guests in a state of frenzy as realizations start to manifest themselves. Their identities are at stake after all. Take the food away, a man will still want his identity and who better than Milan Kundera to seriously realize that? Perhaps first time director Byrkit and his skeleton crew.

Is this making sense at all. Or did Beth (Elizabeth Gracen) lace the food with more ketamine than Beth confesses to?
Do not come into contact with your other self.
Right, just when I thought Dead Ringers would be so much fun in real (work-life balance?). Just when I thought the guests were all good friends, it turns out that they are more than willing  to undermine the others by abandoning the reality they all share and slam-edit to the bi-product of a comet fly-by, a parallel universe that may or may not be more appealing than the present one.

An ingenious film, with harrowing consequences, written with care, so much care that the director could be the EOD equivalent for Hollywired.
A film where you are forced to make assumptions, with the help of the genre, but no; you would want to kill yourself and erase everything for the exact opposite purpose of retaining everything, assumptions included. A project, where the dread and paranoia are cranked up to eleven, with reasonable people (strong ensemble acting) making decisions of huge consequences and semi-improvised, and tense naturalism. However, it doesn’t seem all that significant and substantial until one of the characters is shown holding a piece of paper he just scribbled on, completely baffled and taken aback upon the sighting of Schrödinger’s cat. Here, in Coherence the source of unease is more philosophical than anything else, it rises above the (what become petty) marital tensions and sexual secrets, and off it goes exploring the mind-shifting, blowing up of a metaphysical gasket.

Existentialism? The hypothetical self-contained separate reality coexisting with one’s own?’ The multiverse, chicken that tastes like fish? Not getting drunk enough to kill yourself, or the other that is you? Not getting drunk enough because one bottle of wine can only do so much for the seven of yourselves? Why seven? The number was never spoken of in the film? Well, sources say there are seven parallel universes. What? And why the hell am I still looking for a job, when I should be looking for my duplicates and start getting some work done. Screw that. 

Coherence is a parable where you cannot trust anyone, not even the film and its complex trappings. Above all, you cannot trust yourself either, or the fact that you did walk into the right house, or did you? You did. Alright. However sunshine, it was you who wanted to return the stuff and took the diary back to the other house, and it was (yet again) you who brought it back, with a smile of achievement spread from ear to the other’s ear. Even the characters feel genuinely flustered by their own decisions, their actions, which are being shaped by the space-time anomaly; a peculiarity that fucks with the cause and effect of that one place where all the players are present, that one set, not the doppelgangers, and they keep going on. Such is the wild and provocative nature of Coherence; even though it may seem calm and harmless and all bloody well congenial on the surface.

Stop. Please stop. This is mind-fuck and quantum physics crammed into eighty nine minutes. Too short a time for a mid-age crisis to come full circle.

Coherence is frighteningly intriguing, affronting, full of dangerous (could be) consequences. Above all Coherence is an intelligent film that does not leave the big fat question go unanswered. Would you kill for love or individuality or singularity? Can you tolerate yourself when you look at yourself without the use of a mirror? 

The film begins with a phone call and ends with one. However, nobody knows who called who, even the callers and receivers themselves. 

I, you, us; we need ganja to put things into perspective, but why do we need to put things straight? The film says that trying to put things straight causes a butterfly effect within a group or groups in a deterministic nonlinear system. A ripple effect that will come to bite you in the ass sooner or later. It can make the most rational mind do things with reasons not really clear to the rational mind. 

What the fuck…?

Was it Marcia Moore fucking with us or maybe Jung? Perhaps Beth did put a large dose of KitKat in the food for the entire neighborhood to go all Stephen Hawking on each other and the audience. 

A strange, thoughtful and a brilliantly crafted film. I pray James Ward Byrkit does not stop here, either intentionally or unintentionally like M. Night Shyamalan used to.

What if we are the dark version?

Em (Emily Baldoni)

Peanut Nutter Sammich.

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