Coherence (2013)
September 25, 2014 7:51 PM - Subscribe

An ingenious, supremely well-executed film that's like a cross between a Twilight Zone episode and Primer. Benefits from multiple viewings, but avoid spoilers for maximum effect.
posted by AceRock (19 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Yes! This screened at the Boston Sci Fi Film Festival this past Feb. (Actually, bad weather delayed the screening and I didn't get to see it til it ran (again? I forget if it the earlier screening happened) partway through the 24 hour movie marathon that ends the fest.) It felt like Twilight Zone by way of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. The clever bitchy dialogue at the dinner party to start with was just a delightful beginning.

I saw a Q&A with Nick Brendon after the screening, and apparently the film was shot chronologically over about 5 days with a later 3 days of pick-ups, and substantially improvised by the actors around notes that the actors got each day. Some of the particularly clever lines were verbatim from the notes (not sharing my favorite to avoid spoilers, but it start with "Don't you understand what's going on here? This all started tonight. If there are a million different realities..."). The reactions to some of the surprise events like thumps on the door were quite real and unscripted reactions from the actors.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:38 PM on September 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

There's a theory that the blackouts between certain scenes are key to a better understanding of the plot and I'll definitely have to watch it again with this in mind.
It was nice (and a little sad too) to see Nick Brendon making fun of himself as a once popular actor in a famous TV series.
posted by elgilito at 4:46 AM on September 26, 2014

blackouts between certain scenes are key to a better understanding

Interesting! I'm curious to see it again if this is the case.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:58 AM on September 26, 2014

I liked this movie, and I'm happy that there is now a micro-genre of movies where people at a party slowly realize that the world around them has suddenly become horribly eff'ed up. ("Oh your phone's dead too? Who wants some more wine?")
posted by paper chromatographologist at 7:00 AM on September 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

This movie was really well done. I definitely need to watch it again, drawing up a map or outline as it goes along. The blackouts did seem to be more conspicuous later on in the movie (or rather I was probably just more conscious of them as more of the plot was revealed), it'd be fun to pay more attention to them on a rewatch.
posted by Timmoy Daen at 12:43 PM on September 26, 2014

Oh, and I meant to say, Primer is an apt comparison, both in terms of premise (loosely) and style. Another pretty great movie with a similar premise is Triangle.
posted by Timmoy Daen at 12:50 PM on September 26, 2014

I've just watched the movie, and one thing that just so slightly annoys me right now is that there is this one big time shift between two of the realities at one point, but otherwise everything seems to be pretty much in sync.

The second house had their marker box done and ready by the time the people from the first house went outside for the first time. For the box thing to work, the second house would have had to figure out something is wrong, that there are others just like them, that there are not just two but multiple/infinite versions, that they need to place a marker and then create & place that marker. From the start until we saw a group do this it seemed like it took at least an hour, maybe two. Which mean the first and second house were time shifted by 2-4 hours. But again, everything else seemed to be so much closer together so this felt like it didn't fit quite right with the rest of the strangeness.

But. I did like the movie and I think I'll probably watch it again and see how much more I can pick up on "visitors" and other fun things, and see how the blackouts work on a second viewing.

I really liked Primer, and another movie with a similar premise (to Primer) is Los Cronocrímenes/Timecrimes.

> I liked this movie, and I'm happy that there is now a micro-genre of movies where people at a party slowly realize that the world around them has suddenly become horribly eff'ed up.

In case you're interested, It's a Disaster is a movie which takes this premise in a completely different direction.
posted by bjrn at 1:41 PM on September 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

I just watched Triangle and liked it. I'm interested in this micro-genre! I'll have to watch It's a Disaster too.

Coherence was well done and kept my interest, though I didn't think too hard about how it all fit together. I wonder if anyone's made a diagram, like the excellent timeline chart someone made for Primer.
posted by isthmus at 2:03 PM on September 27, 2014

I thought this was a fantastic film. Really magnificent writing and execution. In some ways it was more successful than Primer, even if it isn't as wonderfully headfucking-yet-solvable as that movie: if you want to chart out the puzzle in your head, you can get pretty deep into that side of things (there's at least one scene, I believe, where a simple throwaway glance between two characters upends your mental image of the situation), but on another level, it never stops being a fully entertaining dinner-party-gone-wrong film. I think in that sense it's capable of pleasing the puzzle film eggheads and everyone else in different ways. Primer, on the other hand, remains primarily an egghead intellectual film, with the human elements never being super compelling on their own merits.

I like the Primer meets Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? comment. The film reminds me of nothing so much as the most complex LSAT logic games question ever devised. I remember answering hundreds of ridiculous dinner party logic questions in preparation for the LSATs, and now I want to make a mock LSAT question based on the plot of this movie. There's even the scene where the main character works out the red and blue numbers of each of the guests to drive the point home: it's a feature length LSAT logic question.
posted by naju at 1:09 AM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

And wow, I have an insane amount of respect for everyone involved after reading this.
posted by naju at 1:28 AM on September 28, 2014 [5 favorites]

Is this movie "solvable"? Like, is it possible to track down every instance of a character down to a source house? Are there enough clues and cues to do so? Or do we throw up our hands and say there's no way to tell?
posted by naju at 2:29 PM on September 28, 2014

naju, thank you - that interview is fantastic.
posted by kalapierson at 8:26 AM on September 30, 2014

There was another time slippage episode; Mike left for 45 minutes, but only left 5 minutes ago.
posted by Pronoiac at 5:38 PM on February 3, 2015

I just saw this film and really enjoyed it. My take is that all the Em's choose the best possible world, which is why one of them drags herself to the bathroom (and is not the one in the trunk) and another calls at the very end.
anyone else?
posted by OHenryPacey at 5:48 PM on February 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

OHenryPacey, that hadn't occurred to me, but I think that at least the one in the bathtub must have survived, because I doubt the appearance of the body would've gone unmentioned.

I have the DVD, and I'm thinking about watching it with commentary and mapping out as much info as I can.
posted by Pronoiac at 1:22 PM on February 19, 2015

In the commentary, the makers raise the question, "did Em get out of the trunk, or is it a new Em?" but don't actually answer it, saying, maybe, or maybe multiple Ems drugged multiple other Ems outside, and this is another one. The Em we follow throughout is the one who had, like, a perfect storm happen to make her choose to walk out of the house and look for something better.
posted by Pronoiac at 1:58 AM on February 20, 2015

or maybe multiple Ems drugged multiple other Ems outside, and this is another one.

Imagine the slow-dawning horror of Em: she always chooses the best world but as such she's doomed to keep killing herself in it as she keeps showing up. The line Mike has midway through the film worrying about his worst self jumping between universes... I'm pretty sure that's a self-fulfilling prophecy and he shows up a bit later to punch himself in the face. Illustrating his own point and foreshadowing Em's predicament of always being her worst self in the best possible universe.
posted by carsonb at 9:43 PM on June 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

The advice to stay in the house should have been followed. Once one character leaves the house, the multiverse gets discovered. Two consequences to that: firstly, once you cross the boundary (in either direction) you are randomly distributed to one of the realities, and crossing “back” just randomly distributes you again. Each time someone crosses, the probability space increases, so you’re swiftly adrift with no way of getting back to the correct one. Secondly, because some of the realities are out of synch in terms of time, there is the possibility of replacing other versions of you - and once this idea occurs to you, you will be competing against all of the other versions of yourself to either arrive at the earliest possible version and prevent everyone leaving the house, or at the latest possible version to end up in the “final” reality, depending on the tactic that occurs to you. Best case scenario: you kill millions upon millions of versions of yourself and survive. Far more likely worst case: you are killed by a smarter or luckier doppelganger (especially one with an information advantage over you).

Interestingly, the ending implies that the film follows a multiverse approach, rather than the Schroedinger’s Cat / Copenhagen interpretation, and that everyone ends up where they are when the comet has passed, musical chairs style - rather than collapsing into a single reality as the book suggests. Meaning that there’s no need to start murdering people - you just need to end up in a reality with the correct number of youes (one, yourself).

The other part that I found interesting was the ketamine. A Close Personal Friend has had experiences on high doses of recreational ketamine that are very similar, albeit more abstract: the sense that a multiverse has opened up and it is possible to choose which reality to return to; and that there might be a friendly competition between the person in the k-hole and their equally k-holed companions to return to the most favourable reality. The ending kind of suggests otherwise, but it’s possible to read the film as a long trip after they all got spiked with vitamin K at the outset.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 1:30 PM on February 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

Watched this last night, and about to have a rewatch. Naju's link above does make the whole thing seem even more amazing, and the trivia page on IMDB adds even more; this tidbit is relevant to some above comments:
The blackout cuts used as scene transitions are strategically placed. The filmmakers have implied it has something to do with the fracturing of realities and fit certain rules. Act 1 ends with Kevin (Maury Sterling) discovering the duplicate note, but the blackout cut is not used to transition into the beginning of Act 2, because it does not fit the rules.
posted by quinndexter at 5:10 AM on April 30, 2019

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