Coherence could have been one of those films where it drags out its reveal right to the end, having the characters figure it out long after the viewers, but it’s much better for getting it out of the way reasonably close to the beginning and really exploring its premise.
The whole thing takes place in and around one house where a bunch of friends gather for a dinner party on the night a comet is supposed to fly overhead. As it does, all the power in their neighbourhood goes out, except for their house, and a house a couple of streets away. It’s probably worth going over there to see what’s going on, you’d think. Maybe their phone works. Hey those people look familiar. Weird things ensue.
You’re best off going into this knowing as little as possible, so at this point I’ll just say un-read the paragraph above and see it, it’s really good, but if you insist on having some idea of what you’re in for then I’ll carry on. Coherence is a risky title for a film that presents a complex fractal of a plot, but it establishes its rules pretty successfully and abides by them.
The dialogue is mostly improvised by a largely unknown (unless you’ve watched a lot of Buffy) cast, they have a believable history and easy chemistry. There’s no real protagonist until one kind of emerges in the final stretch (and what a final stretch). In a lesser film, the relationship conflict would just be there to slow down getting to the fireworks factory, but here it informs the decisions people make, so you have two understandable points of view in cases like investigate the weird house vs. stay put and wait a second shut up let me think. (Even though, of course you go investigate the strange house, don’t leave me hanging).
It’s really refreshing to have characters who accept a bizarre situation and adapt to it, instead of spending half their time denying what’s going on – even if that could be realistic, it would still be dull.
The only real bit of silliness I can think of is how they figure out exactly what is going on and why. Remember the bit in Army of Darkness where Bruce Campbell gets sent to a medieval war and just happens to have a bunch of books in his car about making steam engines and battling skeletons or whatever? Like that, but played straight.
I’m willing to overlook it, because while glaring, it saves us a lot of time and nonsense by just establishing the stakes and letting us get down to it.
Beyond that I have nothing but praise, it’s a low-budget, single-set production that runs on ideas and storytelling, and is more worthwhile than a couple of hundred million dollars worth of hobbits. For the record, I am 4, blue, and a lobster harmonica. It’ll make sense once you see it.