Director: James Ward Byrkit
Cast: Hugo Armstrong, Nicholas Brendon, Emily Foxler, Elizabeth Gracen, Lauren Maher, Alex Manugian, Lorene Scafaria, Maury Sterling
Watch Coherence online in the UK: TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / iTunes / Amazon Instant Video / Google Play / Curzon Home Cinema
Writer-director James Ward Byrkit’s debut feature Coherence is a no-budget talker doomed to obscurity by its near-complete lack of marketing moolah, which is a huge shame because it’s exactly the kind of cracking, creepy brain-boggler you used to catch on Channel 4 in the middle of the night. Then you’d try to tell friends about it but, mysteriously, nobody else saw it, then years later at a party one other person would bring it up and you’d rejoice that at last you had a soulmate, except the next day nobody remembers that person being at the party and everyone is asking why you were talking to yourself all night. It’s that kind of film.
Firmly in the Primer arena of filmmaking, where the amount of cash available is in indirect proportion to the number of ideas bursting out of the script, Coherence is one of those deliciously simple, effective directorial debuts that signal a potentially formidable talent. Set in one house (kind of), at a dinner party where eight annoyingly WASPish characters yap inanely about yoga and feng shui, it soon veers off into a twilight zone where an indistinct menace drives a twisty, intelligent script towards a genuinely alarming climax. Imagine Friends if Central Perk were an inter-dimensional portal to existential terror and you’re part way there.
Byrkit’s skill isn’t just in directing eight improvisational actors through his knotty quasi-sci-fi without having them garble incomprehensibly over each other, but also in his efficient script, which doesn’t waste a word; the passing mentions of yoga and feng shui become as important to the plot as the (ever-so-slightly clunky) exposition about quantum physics and Schrödinger’s cat. Mysterious boxes, impossible photographs, convenient power cuts and red herrings all contribute to the general unease, but Byrkit raises some troubling questions along the way we might not be all that keen to answer. His cast of virtual unknowns are satisfyingly naturalistic, irritating you with their pretensions in the first act and earning your sympathy later as the Shiraz hits the fan.
With immediate re-watch value and the certainty of endless diagrams being posted online to explain its plot, Coherence is a hidden gem destined for cultdom. It requires your full attention for 90 minutes and a little forgiveness for some of its narrative leaps, but clever little films like this don’t come along very often and deserve perseverance and celebration. James Ward Byrkit has earned the right to be described as One To Watch, and his first feature deserves no less a label.
Originally published on The Incredible Suit