First-time director James Ward Byrkit delivers large-scale sci-fi ideas in a deceptively small indie film called Coherence.
A group of friends arrive for a dinner party the night a mysterious comet will be passing over Earth. There’s some talk of how the passing of “Miller’s Comet” may alter the very fabric of reality. electricity, phone signals, magnetic waves, and even human actions are all being affected on Earth.
Of this group of friends, director James Ward Byrkit a wide-array of character tropes from health-nuts, ex-lovers, a failed ballerina, and actor who once had a role in a TV series. These individuals all hold on to something they once had or could have had; they present themselves with an air of smug entitlement and covet their desires and once sought after dreams. The film stars many notable low-key actors from television such as: Emily Baldoni (Legend Of The Seeker), Lorene Scafaria (Screenwriter of Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World), Hugo Armstrong, Lauren Maher (Pirates Of The Caribbean series), Alex Manugian (Rango), Elizabeth Gracen (Highlander TV series), Nicholas Brendon (Buffy The Vampire Slayer), and Maury Sterling (Homeland).
Byrkit creates a balancing act that’s equal parts character-study (the dinner party as the solo setting for the entire story) and sci-fi intrigue. The entire film feels lived-in, not antiseptic or otherworldly. Even in it’s most “science fiction-y” sections, Coherence feels less like a movie you might need a diagram to decipher than a deceptively simple story that ends up being a microcosm of character and tropes of science fiction. Anyone who saw Shane Carruth’s “lo-fi” film Primer or Nacho Vigalondo’s Time Crimes and Extraterrestrial will recognize the aesthetic approach.
In an interview with Den Of Geek, Byrkit explained the origin of the project:
“You know, for many years I had been thinking about doing this experiment and really craving to try something that did not have a script and did not have such a big crew. And so when I got serious about making a micro-budget movie, it just seemed like the right time to try that experiment. Part of it was also after years of trying to pitch things and get other projects off the ground through the studio route and being told ‘no’…So I think that probably just the frustration with Hollywood and all the closed doors probably led to wanting to completely break the rules.” via
Appearing to be a geek himself, Byrkit cites episodes of The Twilight Zone such as “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street” and “Mirror Image” as influences on his movie, additionally, Byrkit describes the film as a flat-out “1950s drive-in movie with all the dumb parts taken out”. It’s usually a good sign when a director has a grasp of science fiction pop-culture (films, TV, and literature in particular). Coherence has all these things but don’t expect some large-scale alien invasion movie, this is a film that is firmly in the realm of lo-fi intrigue. Byrkit is not trying to blast your senses, he’s trying to work your brain.
Coherence has been rolling-out in limited release since September 2013 but was released in New York City on June 20th with a possible home-video release in early September 2014.
Images: Bellanova Films