Coherence movie simply explained: the meaning of the ending

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This article reveals the explained plot and the detailed events in 2013 movie Coherence, directed by James Ward Byrkit, revealing its meaning, symbols and storyline. We recommend you to read it only after watching the movie, and not before, in order to preserve the pleasure of the first vision.

Coherence is a sci-fi/psychological thriller directed by James Ward Byrkit in 2013. It’s a very complex movie, that brings into the story important notions of quantum mechanics and philosophy. It’s totally normal to be confused after the first vision of the movie, unable to understand if it was all just a dream, or the result of a ketamine intoxication, or if we really viewed multiple realities interacting with each other. This article wants to provide a simple explanation of the plot, the ending and the meaning of the movie.

The plot

Eight friends meet up one night for a dinner. It’s a special day, though: it marks the close passage of Miller’s Comet, and scientists warned the population that something weird could happen that night. This indeed is proven in the very beginning of the movie, when we see Emily’s phone screen cracking for no reason.

Emily is the protagonist of the movie, and we can be safe saying that for the whole vision, we share Emily’s perspective (this has been confirmed also by the director). What happens that night is that very weird events start to happen all of a sudden. After some moments of confusion (that lasts at least a quarted of the movie), we understand two crucial things:

  • What’s happening is definitely caused by the comet’s passage: everything will be over the day after, so whatever happens that night, has to be solved/fixed that night
  • The unexplicable events are caused by the intertwining of multiple parallel realities, where every person and event takes place in a slightly different way. Normally multiple realities never cross, but tonight they do

So what happens is that, while the movie goes on, Emily sees different versions of her friends, coming from different universes. That includes her boyfriend too, which at some point shows to not be aware of the ring she wears, a present that the boyfriend of her reality made to her.

The explanations provided in the movie

The first way the movie explains what’s happening is with the famous Schödinger’s cat paradox. According to that paradox (we won’t go in details on this – remember, this article is a simple explanation of the movie), in quantum physics the different possible states of a system are all existing at the same time until the system is observed. The exact moment we observe that system, or that object (for example opening the box) the system itself assumes a precise state. In a first moment, the characters in the movie try to explain the presence of the other house as an alternative state of their reality.

After that, the movie introduces the presence of a special area out of the house, that if crossed, can switch your reality and makes you jump on another one, without noticing. The movie then uses this area to explain why every time somebody leaves the house, comes back somehow different.

Neither of this elements fully explain the movie. Let’s go deeper in our analysis.

Coherence plot explained

Watch this video on YouTube.
Coherence official trailer

There are good reasons to believe that since the beginning, all characters could belong to different parallel realities. The weird dialog between Laurie and Mike is significant: Mike is the main actor of a tv show that Laurie loves, but she’s actually not able to recognize his face. That would be the effect of the comet, that is already intertwining the realities all together.

The different versions of a given character are not very different, of course. Some little thing related to random events could make them different, but they are substantially the same person, with the same life. Indeed Emily is Kevin’s girlfriend in (almost?) all realities. Temperaments, although, may differ. That’s why we see, for example, so many faces of Mike along the movie: from the one that just takes it easy, keeps drinking wine and accept what’s going on, to the aggressive one that breaks into another house and attacks himself (or better, the other reality’s Mike).

We stay with the same version of Emily from the beginning to the end. So at some point we are aware that the other people interacting with her, may belong to different realities. At some point, Emily realizes that the reality she is in contains a Kevin who didn’t give her the ring as a present. Moreover, that reality breaks into a collective fight, where everybody shouts and accuses each other for what they have done in their life. Emily decides then that she doesn’t want to live in that reality. And that brings us to the ending of the movie.

Some questions answered

Just some quick answers before we come to the movie finale. We’ll be quick, promised.

Emily wakes up the morning after and all suddenly looks normal: was it all a bad dream?

No. Emily didn’t dream everything that happened. Indeed, the morning after, Kevin receives a call from another version of Emily and understands that something wrong happened. Which is exactly what “our” Emily did in the ending. It wasn’t a dream.

The ketamine owned by Beth could have gone in the food, and it was all the result of a drug intoxication?

No. Basically for the same reason as above. The phone call that ends the movie proves that something happened.

Let’s just say that the movie wants the spectator to believe that the morning after, when Emily wakes up, everything looks normal again, so we tend to expect that nothing weird really happened. But the phone call is real, and it’s weird. We don’t have a way to explain that phone call, or the fact that Kevin hands over to Emily another ring, with a realistic explanation. What we saw until that moment was what really happened to “our” Emily.

Now deep inside the movie ending

Coherence ending explained

Emily doesn’t want to live in that reality then. She goes out and starts looking through the windows of all houses around. We then discover that every house stages an alternative reality. And more or less they are all going bad: they all fight, they even get violent on some of them. In one reality she even sees Kevin hugging too close his ex-girlfriend Laurie. Then she finds a reality where everything seems peaceful, and where she sees an Emily that looks truly happy. And she decides to take her place.

She stages a crack on a car, to allow everybody out. She knew that even that Emily would have decided to get the ring in her car (after all, who knows her better than herself?). There she poisons the other Emily and closes her in the car’s trunk. Few minutes later, she sees another Emily, and kills her too. Then she faints and wakes up the day after.

The morning after, the comet has passed, and the parallel realities can no longer twist with each other: every character stays in the reality they have in front of their evey now. And in the reality where we are now, nothig really strange happened. There weren’t big blackouts. There was just Emily that didn’t feel good and slept all night. Kevin found her ring in the bathroom and gives it back to her (except she already has her own ring, actually). Then Kevin receives a phone call. It’s Emily. Another Emily. We don’t even know which one actually. But now Kevin knows that his reality has more than one Emily. And probably the one in front of his eyes is a bad Emily, who did something evil.

We don’t know what will happen from that moment on. That’s where the movies end. But we can draw up some conclusion on a phylosophical level.

The phylosophy behind Coherence

The movie wants to convey a strong message: there could be things that happen in our life that could turn ourselves in good or bad people. Like what happened to “our” Emily with the ballet: she could have been a prima ballerina in one of the many other realities.

What we can conclude is that the Emily we accompanied for the whole movie is a evil one. Able to kill her copies and steal their own realities, as if she deserves it more than the others. When in fact, she’s is much worse that the Emily living the final reality, who is a successful woman that has been attacked by a bad Emily.

Why so many Emilies in that reality? Well, just because many Emilies from many different realities had the same idea, probably, and tried to enter the only alternative universe where she looked happy.

Why are we so scared by the presence of copies of us? That is the psychological part of the movie. The awareness that we are unique, unreplicable beings is a important safety net for our mental health. It means that we are what we are, and prevents us to focus too much on whether we could be much better, or much more beloved. The moment we discover that we could check up another house and see how we went in another reality drives us mad: we can compete actively with other versions of us. We are now fully responsible for what we are in this reality, because it depended only on us. We have no alibis. If another copy of us is better than us, it’s only because we are just worse than them.

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