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Originally published Thursday, July 17, 2014 at 10:05 PM

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‘Coherence’: Dinner party gets caught in a sci-fi maze

A movie review of “Coherence,” a sci-fi thriller about a dinner party disrupted by strange happenings after a comet passes over Earth.


The New York Times

Movie Review ★★★  

‘Coherence,’ with Emily Foxler, Maury Sterling, Lauren Maher. Written and directed by James Ward Byrkit, based on a story by Byrkit and Alex Manugian. 89 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. Grand Illusion, through Thursday.

The New York Times does not provide star ratings with reviews.

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It’s a commonplace that speculative fiction speaks to the anxieties percolating in its age. Such seems the case with the likes of “Edge of Tomorrow,” which kinks up its narrative by repeatedly cycling back to the past, suggesting that complex theories about space-time are now so mainstream that they’re the stuff of mass entertainment.

The same might be said of the far more modest “Coherence,” although it’s also true that digital tools, which allow directors to shoot fast, cheap and sometimes sloppily, are also helping pry loose linear narrative’s hold on movies.

Directed by James Ward Byrkit, “Coherence” largely takes place in a few rooms in a house. There, eight lovers and friends gather together for an evening of food, wine and yammer that soon takes a turn for the woo-woo warped.

First, though, pleasantries are exchanged while metaphoric daggers are politely brandished, most by Em (Emily Foxler), who’s unsettled that her boyfriend, Kevin (Maury Sterling), once dated another guest, Laurie (Lauren Mahler). This friction functions as something of a red herring while Byrkit readies his inciting incident.

That proves to be a comet passing over Earth, which, or so Em insists, may explain why everyone’s cellphone has gone dead. Soon, the dinner party faces a profoundly more severe crisis when it appears the comet may have wreaked havoc on the guests’ sanity, their perception of reality, or perhaps time and space itself.

Whatever the case, something weird is happening, and, it soon seems, the people in a nearby house look an awful lot like the progressively freaked-out dinner guests. If that sounds confusing, it eventually is, even if, at first, Byrkit does a nice job of plotting the story’s complex coordinates while coaxing the characters (and you) into his maze.

At some point, though, Byrkit turns one too many corners, and what began as a nifty puzzle feels more like a trap.



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