The Daily Stream: Coherence Is A Prime Example Of Simplistic And Cerebral Sci-Fi

Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Movie: "Coherence"

Where You Can Stream It: Netflix

The Pitch: Sci-fi films don't have to be high-budget productions filled with intergalactic warfare, menacing aliens, or epic travel sequences. Sometimes, the most unnerving and thought-provoking sci-fi is rooted in minimalism. "Coherence" is a prime example of effective small budget filmmaking and delivering complex themes obscured by a straight-forward plot.

Why It's Essential Viewing

The word "coherence" can be defined as a systematic or logical connection or consistency. It can also refer to an integration of diverse elements, relationships, or values. James Ward Byrkit's 2013 directorial debut, "Coherence," is an impressive entry into the sci-fi genre that combines scientific principles with humanistic needs, desires, and exploration. The film takes the concept of coherence and turns it on its head, providing a psychological and visual puzzle that leads viewers to question essential elements such as character identity, time, setting, and reality in general.

Set over the span of one night, eight friends gather for a dinner party in Northern California. On this particular evening, Miller's Comet is passing overhead. The film primarily centers around Emily (Emily Foxler), a dancer who accompanies her boyfriend to the get-together but is distraught when his ex shows up on the arm of one of their friends and begins to dig up painful memories for Emily. Suddenly, the power goes out. As the crew search for glow sticks and candles, they notice a house at the top of the street has power while no one else does. As the comet continues to pass overhead, other strange events occur. Those who leave the house do not come back as they once were. Items used to identify their location, identity, and placement of time begin to change either in form or color. Soon, the guests don't know which house they belong in, who is who, or how they arrived to where they are. 

Byrkit's film was shot on a 50,000 budget in five days and in one location (Byrkit's own house). Oh, and there's no script. He selected improvisational actors and gave them the basic outline of their characters, motivations, and major plot points each day of filming. While it seems bare bones, Byrkit spent over a year researching quantum mechanics, specifically Schrödinger's cat. This thought experiment illustrates a paradox of quantum superposition. It features a hypothetical cat that can be considered simultaneously both alive and dead as a result of being linked to a random subatomic event that may or may not occur. Byrkit applies this concept to "Coherence" in a stunning manner. The actors bring a naturalistic approach to their characters all while unraveling deeper scientific theories that question their own reality. This film demands your full attention and is worth watching multiple times over.