COHERENCE **** USA / UK 2013 Dir: James Ward Byrkit. 89 mins

Feature debut for writer-director James Ward Byrkit, working wonders with a minimalist budget, a busy handheld camera and overlapping, improvised dialogue, this opens with the revelation of a comet passing unusually close over the Earth. A vague uneasiness amongst an octet of people enjoying a dinner party is reinforced by the spontaneous deaths of two things they cannot do without: mobile phone coverage and the internet. Peculiar happenings follow: a strange presence outside ; the discovery of a box of photographs of each of them, numbered in an inexplicable fashion and, most unnervingly, all taken without their awareness earlier that night; and a freshly written note almost immediately found on their door even while the author still holds the original.
This chilling lo-fi sci-fi tale wanders into quantum physics debates as it becomes apparent the small group have unwittingly uncovered simultaneous realities, including at least three other versions of “themselves”, the differences as inconsequential as differing colours of glow sticks in their possession. The performances are astute, with BUFFY’s Nicholas Brendon cannily cast as a faded TV actor with a drinking problem and an insistence that the parallel-universe versions of themselves should be treated as enemies. An escalating sense of paranoia dovetails neatly with soap-opera revelations best summarised by witty lines like “If there are a million realities, then I have slept with your wife in all of them…” It’s full of ambiguity and possible explanations, but ultimately succeeds as an insidiously creepy mind-fuck that would make a great indie sci-fi double bill with the recent ANOTHER EARTH. Like that movie, COHERENCE has triumphant moments of understated terror, including the line “That’s you calling….”

Review by Steven West

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