Coherence, an inconsistent yet entertaining mental-romp


Since I was a child movie trailers have held a special interest for me, an interest which has only grown over time. There is something appealing about an art form which teases a fuller story while not ruining the narrative itself. Granted, there have been trailers which dress up garbage in designer clothes, but for me that’s all part of the appeal. When I see a compelling trailer I become intrigued with the story it’s teased.

This past year I saw one such trailer scroll through the IMDB app on my iPad, teasing a movie entitled Coherence – a low-budget, indy, sci-fi drama. I didn’t get a chance to see it in the theaters (or even look it up to see where it was playing), but this week I found it in Amazon Prime movies for streaming. For some New Year’s fun I decided to sit down and watch it. Let me give some thoughts without unleashing any spoilers.

What I could have done without

There were only three things in this film which I found a bit annoying. Unfortunately, they were present throughout the entire film.

First, I found the characters to be largely unlikeable. I’m not sure why every group of 20-somethings in an indy movie has to have a few people who are proudly doing “cleanses” and blithely transporting various drugs for their friends, but it seems to be a trend. The fact that, according to the timeline mentioned in the film the ensemble was probably made up of thirty-somethings acting like twenty-somethings made many of the characters even less likable1. Still, it’s not all bad. There are a few bright spots among the group, including the character who becomes the primary protagonist, these few characters often over-come the unlikeable nature of the others.

Second, I get annoyed when a bunch of people suddenly spout-off scientific jargon on cue, even though they display no affinity for it earlier in the film. Thankfully, this is only doled out annoyingly thick in one particular scene. It remains an under-current once the genie is unleashed, but it quickly becomes less of an issue.

Third, it’s all “shaky-cam.” There are moments where shaky-cam really lends itself to a visceral experience, the first are -scene in Hunger Games was once such moment. There are even entire movies where shaky-cam helps form the narrative, Cloverfield and The Blair Witch Project are two such films. Coherence doesn’t need this effect to make the narrative visceral, yet it is all over the place. Of the three annoyances in the film this was, for me, the most difficult to get over.

Things I Appreciated

I loved the plot. It’s simple, and yet mind-bending. The mystery of what’s happening unfolds slowly, and the implications of the events in story expand at an engaging pace. There are perhaps one or two over-obvious hints as the story progresses, but I’ll forgive these because I found the plot so entertaining.

While I didn’t appreciate the shaky-cam in the film, I did appreciate the claustrophobic feeling of the setting. Coherence managed to turn something normal into something alien – it was well done.

Should you?

If you like psychologically-bent science fiction, and you can forgive some of the weaker creative touches, Coherence is certainly worth your time – especially if you have Amazon Prime. It’s not the most incredible film ever, and the acting is a bit inconsistent, but it’s a decent films nonetheless.

  1. What I’m trying to say to indy film-makers is, “We get it. ‘There are no grown-ups.’ That doesn’t mean we have remain adolescents for our entire lives.”