Do you enjoy sci-fi movies where you question the fabric of reality? I have a request. Stop scrolling on the streaming service you’ve been staring at, head to Prime Video and watch the 2013 low-budget sci-fi movie Coherence ASAP — it’s now free to subscribers. I know. I just watched it… for the fourth time.
The premise of Coherence is quite simple. A few friends meet for dinner the same night a mysterious comet flies overhead. It starts like many indie movies, with a troubled love story, the tension between exes, and witty banter.
Then the power goes out. It’s getting weird. Two companies.
Nothing is what it seemed. Inexplicable events take place as the ensemble of characters struggles to restore power. Some begin to doubt where they are; others are more concerned with who they are. This isn’t a movie about the gossip of old friends. It is a story of those who come face to face with the terrifying truth of their reality.
If I share any more, I risk huge spoilers about the shocking revelations uncovered during the film. However, I can assure you that the confusion on the screen is powerful enough to force you to question your sanity.
I’m exaggerating slightly.
The next hour or so is overflowing with plot twists to rival those of 2010’s Shutter Island. The film also skillfully alludes to scientific—and rather philosophical—concepts that may have run through the mind of the late Stephen Hawking.
Coherence links the social, personal, and existential consequences arising from a complex theory of space and time with a heartbreaking mystery. Speckled with red herrings, Easter eggs, and a few double entendres, Coherence is arguably one of the most stunning sci-fi movies I’ve ever seen.
And trust me, I’ve perused several sci-fi IMDB lists and diligently reviewed them in order.
Maybe I can sell you on the fact that sometimes bordering on horror, Coherence was made on a scant budget of just $50,000 and shot in just five days. For context, Alfonso Cuarón’s 2013 film Gravity was made at $100 million.
I’ve been watching low-budget sci-fi movies recently because I’ve found that what these movies lack in the cinema, they overcompensate in the story—Shoutout to Operation Avalanche (2016), Another Earth (2011), and Primer (2004).
Coherence, however, was the film that started my journey.
Interstellar may have provided the striking image of a gigantic, iconic wave that almost wipes out the main characters to the tune of Hans Zimmer. Mars probably stole your heart with its stunning depiction of a barren Mars amid a blanket of fog. And Arrival might have been the first time you cried over a shadowy alien doing some inky sign language.
But Coherence elegantly tells the story of a group of friends grappling with current affairs, navigating the terrifying twists and turns reality can take — without the help of CGI, from just one location, and using only the voices of the actors.
Director James Ward Byrkit even decided to forgo a script for the quietly experimental film. “Every day, instead of a script, the actors were given a page of notes for their character, whether it was a backstory or information about their motivations,” he told IndieWire.
Because the actors were left in the dark about how the story unfolds, every tension and bewilderment in their performances is authentic. The chaotic disorder of the movie happened during the filming of the film.
Coherence makes you guess the actors, provokes audible stutters, and makes you feel like a sci-fi spy. Hours after the credits are released, you could be chilling as previously overlooked clues and nuances slowly overwhelm you.
I even got goosebumps just thinking about that one scene. You know which one.