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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

Coherence movie review: night out of mind

by MaryAnn Johanson

Coherence green light

Deploys twisty sci-fi concepts to warp the almost-clichéd dinner-party soap opera into a horror story of the human condition in the face of quantum philosophy.
I’m “biast” (pro): I’m hungry for smart science fiction

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Pro relationship tip: Do not go to a dinner party with a bunch of your friends who all have long-term interconnected relationships — with all the unresolved resentments and secret entanglements that can come with that — when there’s a quantum anomaly in the neighborhood. Not when there are important, even life-changing, decisions to be made at the same time.

See, just as Em (Emily Foxler: Ghosts of Girlfriends Past) is having to decide whether to fly off to Vietnam with her boyfriend, Kevin (Maury Sterling: Veronica Mars, The A-Team), for four months to accompany him for his work, there’s this crazy comet passing by planet Earth, and it’s messing with cell phones and doing other insane stuff. Stuff that I am loathe to reveal because part of the mind-bending fun of this deliciously tangled little SF flick is finding yourself in the frakked-up middle of the same weird situation as Em, Kevin, and their friends experience it when the power goes out and isolates this little group in the Los Angeles home of Mike (Nicholas Brendon) and Lee (Lorene Scafaria, writer-director of Seeking a Friend for the End of the World); the other couples are Amir (Alex Manugian: Rango) and Laurie (Lauren Maher: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End), the latter of whom is Kevin’s ex; and Hugh (Hugo Armstrong) and Beth (Elizabeth Gracen).

Writer-director James Ward Byrkit (Rango) deploys some of the twistiest concepts from the realm where science becomes science fiction — stuff like Schroedinger’s cat and alternate realities — to warp the almost-clichéd one-location, one-evening dinner-party soap opera into a horror story of the human condition in the face of quantum philosophy. How much of who we are is shaped by the things we think and do right at this moment? How inevitable are the things we think and do from moment to moment? If we met versions of ourselves who made just slightly different decisions, would we even notice?

Here’s the thing that’s haunting me: Early on in the film, Laurie, a relative newcomer to the group, asks Mike what he does for a living, and he responds that he’s an actor, that he was on the hit 1990s show Roswell for four years as Joe, one of the main characters. Laurie is stunned — she loved Roswell, and she doesn’t remember him at all. Now, it might be a funny in-joke if Nicholas Brendon, who plays Mike here, had actually been on Roswell, but in fact, in the exact same time period, he was playing Xander on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (And there was no recurring character called Joe on Roswell.) So, does this mean that all the weird, universe-shifting stuff that happens in Coherence perhaps started long before any of the dinner-party-goers noticed anything weird happening? Or has Coherence itself actually slipped into our universe from a parallel dimension?


If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • RogerBW

    Ooh. I’ve been rather disappointed with some of the films that promised to be thinky SF recently (e.g. The Machine); I’ll look forward to this one. I don’t think I’ve seen any trailers for it in the usual places I look; I hope that’s a failing of me rather than of the publicity department.

  • Rebecca Dalmas

    Title says it all, although punnily enough.

  • I endeavor to amuse. :-)

  • Rebecca Dalmas

    ***Possible SPOILER***

    Just watched Co-HER-ence again–this time with my daughter–and realized the metaphorial possibilities when considering the competing interests a woman manages through her life choices…Emily is on the verge of deciding whether to follow her partner to Vietnam. In the end, she chooses to go, but another version of “her” still lingers…


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