Coherence is the strange story of eight friends who meet for dinner on the night the Miller’s Comet is passing over the Earth. The comet’s passing results in a tear in their reality and I’m afraid anything more is going to give away the story. It’s an interesting film and if you’ve already watched it, read on. Here’s the film Coherence explained.
I’m going to break this article up into two parts – a quick explanation and then a detailed one.
Film Plot Explanation – Quick Version
The gist of the film is that 6 people come over for dinner to a couple’s place. Lee and Mike are the hosting couple. I’m not getting into the details and relationship between these 8 people. During their dinner, there is a comet that is passing over them. This causes their house and the occupants to intertwine with multiple such houses and occupants from other realities. Note that it is not just two realities that have come together but infinite realities that get tangled. There is a dark zone in between the realities. When someone passes through the dark zone, they leave their reality and enter another reality at random. The one person which the movie constantly follows is Emily. She is the central character and is the only one we constantly follow. I’ll call her Emily Prime.
A powercut occurs initially and this marks the start of the intertwined realities. At a distance, outside, they see a house with lights on. They don’t know it’s the same house from another reality. At first, two of the guys exit the house to go make a phone call from the “other house” and cross over into another reality. Their doubles come in from another reality. No one realizes this switch As the story unfolds, they begin to realize that the other house is actually another version of theirs. But the group initially assumes that there are only two houses (from two realities). Later they realize that there are multiple realities and that once the comet passes, each reality will be stuck permanently with whoever stays in it.
As time passes, different groups of people leave the house and cross over the dark zone. This results in everyone getting jumbled across different realities. Due to past events between people in the group, there are various fights that break out. Emily Prime is frustrated and leaves on her own. She wanders from one reality to another. Each of the realities have gotten into fights of their own. In each reality, people have gotten mixed up from different realities and there is chaos. Finally, she stumbles upon one reality where no one is fighting. In this reality, they have never had a powercut. Remember, it’s the powercut that makes them head out and start crossing into the dark zone. No powercut means, this group never left the house. The group is intact and hence are having a normal evening.
Emily Prime wants to replace the Emily from this reality and take on her life and be happy. Emily Prime sneaks up on her double and drugs her. First she throws her in the trunk and later attacks her in the bathroom and puts her in the bathtub. Emily Prime heads to the living room and faints. She wakes up the next morning on the sofa. Looks like the others have not run into the double. At some point the double has gotten up from the bathtub and left. Emily Prime leaves the house and meets Kevin. His phone rings. The call is from Emily. On answering the call, he gives a suspicious look towards Emily Prime and she stares back with guilt. The film ends. The reality that Emily Prime is in now will permanently have 2 Emilys in it. What happens here or in the other realities, well, that’s not part of this film.
Film Plot Explanation – Detailed Version
The film starts with Emily driving and talking to her boyfriend Kevin. The conversation gets cut due to loss of mobile phone signal. After this, her phone cracks. Emily is the one person which the movie constantly follows. She is the central character and is the only one we constantly follow. I’ll call her Emily Prime. Mike and Lee are a couple and have called for a dinner at their house.
Their guests are:
- Emily Prime & Kevin
- Hugh & Beth
- Amir & Laurie
Kevin is moving some place for 4 months and wants Emily Prime to join, she is hesitant. Kevin and Laurie have dated each other in the past. Amir is presently dating Laurie. Mike has had a history of drinking problem, which he has overcome. Mike and Beth have had an affair 12 years ago. Everyone but Hugh knows about this.
During dinner, the Miller’s comet is passing over. Everyone reaches Mike’s and Lee’s place. Beth says she has these drops which is a concoction of her own. It’s a powerful mix of chemicals with a little horse tranquilizer in it. She uses it to “take the edge off”. No one has signal on their mobile phones and there is no internet at home. Emily Prime mentions about an older comet event – where a woman claimed that her husband wasn’t her husband because she had killed him the day before. Hugh mentions that his phone too shattered spontaneously a while ago.
A powercut happens. This powercut is important. It triggers a whole series of events. Mike gets his glow sticks. There are three boxes with three colours – blue, green, red. They open the box with the blue glow sticks and grab one each. They step out to notice there is no power anywhere except for one house. While the gang thinks that this is another house, they don’t realize they are seeing their own house from a different reality. They also look up in the sky to see the comet and get back in. The passing comet has caused infinite realities to intertwine. There is a dark zone in the middle. Any person crossing this zone will enter a different reality.
Hugh mentions that his brother asks him to call if anything strange happens as the comet passes over. No one has phones. Amir and Hugh decide to go to the other house to try and make contact with Hugh’s brother. The two of them leave. Since they cross over the dark zone, they leave their reality and go away into another reality. We don’t see this version of Hugh and Amir again in the film.
Emily Prime explains that this comet Comet a lot closer this time. The previous time it passed over the Earth, it was much further away and there were no noted strange events the last time. She also talks about the Tunguska Event – when a meteoroid entered atmosphere over Siberia. The explosion caused trees to get flattened over 2000 sq km but there were no human casualties. Suddenly, they hear heavy knocking on the side door. There is no one at the door. It’s been 10 min since Hugh and Amir have left. The power returns – Mike gets the generator running. Bell rings. Hugh and Amir are back. Hugh has a cut on his head. They come with box that they have picked up from the other house. Mike has a similar box so he tries to use his key to open it, it opens. They find a Table Tennis bat and pictures of all of them with numbers behind their pictures.
The Hugh and Amir that have come back are from another reality, they are not the same as the ones who left. But at this point, they themselves don’t know that they are from a different reality.
At the other house, Hugh claims to have seen the same house with 6 (except for himself and Amir) of them having dinner. At that house, Hugh goes around to the side door and knocks. But the rest of the group says they heard a knocking on their side door. The rest feel Amir and Hugh lost their way, circled back to their own house and knocked on the side door. Hugh disagrees. He says he walked two blocks straight down.
Here’s what happened – Hugh didn’t lose his way. Just as the original Hugh and Amir leave, another Hugh and Amir from a different reality show up outside, knock, see the people in the house, get scared and leave.
Set 1 – The original Hugh and Amir who leave the house to make a call
Set 2 – The Hugh and Amir who have returned home
Set 3 – The Hugh and Amir (we never see them) who knock on the side door and leave
Hugh wants to go back to the other house, see if anyone answers and if not leave a note. Note he writes reads “Hey there, don’t mean to freak you guys but we just wanted to borrow your phone for 5 min tops. Thanks”. Someone is on their front door. Mike says it’s a big guy at the door. The big guys leaves. Mike opens the door to find a note at their door. It’s the exact same note that Hugh just wrote.
Here’s what happened. A 4th set of Hugh and Alex have come from a different reality and left the note at the door and returned. Again, this Hugh and Alex we are never shown. This shows that in some realities, Hugh and Alex are able to go paste the note while in some realities they don’t get to leave and end up with two notes.
The group sits down and tries to make sense of the numbers. Emily Prime writes down their names and corresponding numbers on a paper. Amir notes that his pic is from tonight. He has bought the sweater from the pic today. Amir is looking at the camera but doesn’t remember being snapped. Emily Prime feels that the numbers behind the pics are her handwriting. We’ll get to what this is a little later.
Mike suggests all of them should go to the other house to check if their doubles are there. Mike, Emily Prime, Laurie and Kevin leave and Lee, Amir, Hugh and Beth stay. They go over to the other house, Mike says it’s his house. He sees Lee. They sneak out. On the other side of the road, they see their doubles, with red glow sticks. Both groups panic and run in different directions. Now Mike, Emily Prime, Laurie and Kevin return to a house – this house is different from the one they started off from. But they don’t know it yet. This Lee, Amir, Hugh and Beth are a different set from the one they left. This is now the second house (second reality) we are shown from the inside. Also, Lee and Beth have never left the house, they belong to this second house. Hugh and Amir are the 5th set we are seeing right now.
The group talks about the weird dark zone they pass. Hugh and Kevin leave to get a book that Beth says was about comets that she’s left on the back of her car. Lee is sleeping. They come back with the book. The book is about quantum physics titled Gravitation : an introduction to current research. Hugh’s brother is a teacher at a university.
Schrodinger’s cat is brought up in the notes within the book – A cat and a vile of poison are in a box. Regular physics would say the cat is either alive or dead. Quantum physics says that the cat would be alive and dead. Both realities exist simultaneously until the box is opened. So technically the house and the people are like the cat. Their state of existence is in multiple realities, until the comet passes. They even bring up a reference to the movie Sliding Doors. Bottom line is that each of these realities have done something slightly different from each other. Eg: while one group opened the blue glow sticks, the other one opened the red one.
Mike goes nuts, wants to go over to the other house and kill the doubles. He feels he will die when the collapse of realities happens. So far they think there are only 2 houses and 2 sets of them (but in reality there are infinite). Mike is freaked out because if he’s suggesting that they should kill the people in the other house, his double is plotting the exact same thing. And if the Mike in the other house is drinking, then he’s a f$#ked up Mike.
Lee is taking a nap in this house. However, in the other house (that Mike, Emily Prime, Laurie and Kevin pass by), Mike sees Lee but not Beth. This means Beth is napping in the other house. Since Beth brings up the topic of the book, the other reality may not have the book yet. If they don’t have the book, then they aren’t having this conversation (about killing the doubles). So by taking away their book, this whole situation can be avoided in the other house. While this conversation seems to make sense in the context of just two realities, it makes no sense in the present context of the infinite realities. But the group doesn’t know that there are multiple realities yet. Hugh says they shouldn’t change any of the events and forbids Mike from stealing their book. Lee wakes up.
Mike has a private conversation with Kevin. Mike has a secret with Beth that he plans to use on his double in the other house. Using that secret he wants to blackmail his other self from getting that book from the car. The secret is Mike sleeping with Beth 12 years back. Mike leaves in spite of Kevin trying to stop him.
Lee was sleeping because Beth gives her the drops. Emily Prime asks if Beth put any of the drops in the food. This is to check if they were all hallucinating. In their previous party, when they did mushrooms, Beth puts some in the spaghetti sauce but that was a group decision. The group breaks into a discussion if the drops will cause hallucinations. Beth and Hugh argue that even if they took a whole bottle each, they couldn’t have a mass hallucination like this.
Hugh and Amir have a private moment and pull out red glow sticks. This discloses that they are not from this house. But remember, Mike, Kevin, Emily Prime and Laurie are also not from this house. This house just happens to be one which also opened blue glow sticks. Hugh and Amir want to get out. Mike returns, this is a Mike from a different reality. Mike tells Kevin that he has dropped off the blackmail letter as planned. Meanwhile, Hugh and Amir take the book and the box and leave. Kevin says Mike was gone 5min. Mike says he was gone 45min. That’s because the Mike that left the house and this Mike who has returned are not the same person. Mike decides to have a drink.
The gang notices that Hugh and Amir are gone with the box and the book. Laurie says that Hugh and Amir were the first to leave and have been acting strange ever since. So she suggests that they were not “their” Hugh and Amir. Kevin decides to leave to get them back. Emily Prime says no and stops him. They now feel that they can’t trust their doubles. The group is still unaware that there are infinite versions of them getting all mixed up.
Lee and Beth talk. Lee mentions about Mike’s drinking problem. Mike gets Emily Prime the set of pics, “their copy” of what was in the box and hands her scissors. She doesn’t cut the pic. Kevin and Laurie meet. Beth listens and watches. Laurie kisses Kevin. Kevin stops. Beth hints of what happened to Emily Prime. Emily Prime and Kevin talk. She brings up Laurie and the hallway. Kevin dismisses Beth’s claims.
Power goes again, this time the generator goes bust. They hear the sound of car glass getting broken. Everyone leaves to have a look. Hugh’s car glass is broken. Emily Prime goes to check her car and gets her ring (that Kevin had given her a while back) and wears it. She meets Kevin near her car and asks if they are okay and Kevin says yes and that Laurie means nothing. But when she asks about Hugh’s car and if anything was taken, Kevin doesn’t know what she’s talking about. This is a different Kevin. Emily Prime and Kevin realize this. They go their way and Emily Prime returns to the house. The rest of them and Kevin are there. She shows this Kevin the ring.
Hugh and Amir arrive at the door. These two have blue glow sticks. This is the 6th set of Hugh and Amir in the plot. They start narrating their story and there is a mention that Hugh has a different bandaid. They say that they were in a house where everyone had red glowsticks. Hugh brings up the note he writes. He says that in the other house too they ended up with two notes. The group finally beings to realize that since both houses ended up with two notes, that makes a total of 4 notes and this could mean there are multiple houses and not just 2.
They find a way to mark the house. So they use dice. Each one rolls a dice and get a number and they put the number against a picture of theirs and put the pictures in a box. So this is exactly what the other house has done. The numbers and pictures were a way to mark themselves against their house. Amir doesn’t have a pic so they take one. Amir mentions that the other house took a picture of him too but that looked different. They decide to also put a random object in the box as a second factor of authentication – a coaster. They prepare the box. The table tennis bat was the random object the other house had picked.
Though they don’t have the box from the other house, remember Emily Prime made a note of the names and their numbers? She checks that notebook. She asks everyone for their earlier number behind their photos and they give it to her. She cross verifies. Emily Prime tells Mike that she remembers the number series she earlier wrote down. However, the number series she remembers doesn’t match what is already in the notebook. She explains that Lee and Beth are originally from this house as they never left. Mike and Emily Prime, however, are from a different house. Also, she mentions how Hugh’s phone isn’t broken and hence Hugh and Amir are from a different house. She then puts forward a theory. When they cross over to the dark zone, they get thrown randomly to a reality like ball in a roulette wheel. And that she and Mike need to go back and find their original reality before the comet passes, else they will be stuck in the wrong reality forever. Mike says that if it is random, there is no way to get back to their original house. In any case, this Mike is not the Mike the movie starts with, he’s a different one. Emily Prime doesn’t know this.
There is a knock on the door and a note appears. It’s Mike’s blackmail note. This is from a 3rd Mike from a different reality who’s dropped it and gone. The note reads “Beth + book = Trinidad club don’t let it happen buddy” – basically Mike and Beth had an affair 12 years ago. Hugh gets pissed off. Mike now brings up the fact that they are all from different realities – all of Emily Prime’s theories. Hugh gets aggravated and punches Mike. Mike sits up and is talking to Emily. He says he’s made his set of bad decisions and is now stuck in this reality.
Suddenly, another Mike with a green glow stick enters the house. This is a 4th Mike who punches Mike and leaves. Mike’s knocked out. Beth gets tensed and has a nose bleed, it drips on Laurie. Laurie freaks out as she can’t stand blood. Emily Prime opens the door to see a note that reads “Hey there, don’t mean to freak you guys but we just wanted to borrow your phone for 5 min tops. Thanks” .. Hugh’s note. This note means another Hugh and Amir have come to the door and gone, we can ignore this. By now the infinite nature of things is revealed.
Emily Prime gets frustrated and leaves. She wanders from one one reality to another. Each of the realities has the group fighting over something or the other. Finally, she stumbles upon a reality where they are not fighting. In this reality, they have never had any of the powercuts. Remember, it’s the powercut that makes them head out and wander into the dark zone. No powercut in the night means, this group never left the house. The group is intact and hence are having a normal evening.
Emily Prime sneaks into this house. She picks up Beth’s drops. The group hear a noise, a car window breaking. Emily Prime has broken Hugh’s car window. They go out to check. Hugh’s car is broken. Emily from the current reality goes to check on her car. Emily Prime sneaks up on her and drugs her with the drops and throws her in the trunk and locks the boot. She goes back in to join the rest of the gang. Because Emily was missing for a while, they ask Emily Prime where she was (they don’t know a switch has happened). She gives an excuse saying she was watching the comet. So the rest of them decide to step out to watch the comet. They watch the comet but get back in.
Emily (from this reality) has crawled back into the house, somehow, from the trunk. Emily Prime sees her crawling into the bathroom. She strikes her double with the flush lid and dumps her in the bathtub. In the process, she drops her ring. Emily Prime takes the ring from her double, wears it and steps out. She faints. She wakes up the next morning on the sofa. Lee is preparing breakfast. Beth is getting done with shower. Emily’s unconscious body is not in the bathroom. Emily Prime steps out. Kevin meets her, gives her the ring he says he found in the bathroom. Asks if she’s ok. Emily has two rings now. Kevin’s phone rings. It shows Emily to be calling him. On answering the call, he gives a suspicious look towards Emily Prime and she stares back with guilt. The film ends. The reality that Emily Prime is in now will permanently have 2 Emilys in it. What happens here or in the other realities, well, that’s not part of this film.