Coherence's Original Title Would Have Established The Protagonist More Clearly

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James Ward Byrkit's 2014 sci-fi film "Coherence" has an alluring premise. Four couples meet at a friend's house for dinner party, hoping the night can survive their tangled states of couplehood; ex-girlfriends are there, and some of them have had affairs. When an eerie comet passes overhead, the fabric of reality enters a state of quantum decoherence, and alternate universes open up. The four couples look into the house next door, and see alternate versions of themselves. The alternates, they soon find, can wander into their reality and vice-versa. As the film progresses, more and more doppelgängers begin appearing from more and more alternate universes. 

Paranoid about the existence of parallel selves, several characters begin plotting against them, thinking that alternates might have a plot to supplant them; when the comet finally leaves Earth's vicinity, the parallel universes will vanish, and perhaps erase certain people from existence. To assure their survival, the film's central couples create secret codes and assemble boxes of random knick knacks as identifying factors. Emily Foxler plays Em, the film's protagonist, and "Coherence" will climax with her confrontation of one of her doubles. 

When the film was released, critics praised its ingenuity, especially in the face of its tiny budget. Clark Collins from EW was tickled by the joke wherein one character claimed to be allergic to Schrödinger's Cat

When his film was released, Byrkit spoke with Den of Geek about its making, and he revealed that "Coherence" was not the original title. "Coherence" ended up being fitting to the film's sci-fi notions of quantum decoherence, but Byrkit originally wanted the title to be more pertinent to the Em character. It was almost called "The Understudy." 

An understudy in her own life in Coherence

The character of Em, Byrkit explains, is at a crossroads in her life. She has made many bad decisions and had finally reached an age where she has to reckon with their consequences. Em begins the film as a mere member of an eight-character ensemble, but as the film progresses, she begins to take up more and more screentime. Byrkit points out that she is wracked with regret, saying: 

"It's a universal, ground level thing. You don't know it at first who the protagonist is but she starts to emerge, the character of Em starts to emerge as the one who really has the most regret and who feels like just these micro decisions she made led to huge, huge regrets in her life." 

It's a film about exiting your twenties. There comes a point in our lives when hardscrabble non-careers and making poor decisions ceases to be charming. 

Em, meaningfully, once had a chance to take a job as an understudy in a play, but didn't take it. She let the opportunity pass without taking any actions. She merely abstained. Byrkit noted what a personal moment that was, and how it nearly changed to focus of the film. He said: 

"[Em] just didn't act when she had the chance to take this understudy role. It wasn't even that she chose not to take it, she just didn't make the call. She just didn't say yes. And so that has haunted her for years. We actually almost called the movie 'The Understudy' because that was so crucial to her the way that she thinks of herself." 

Byrkit chose a title, instead, that refers to the scenario instead of a character. 

"Coherence" is currently available on Peacock, Tubi, Kanopy, Prime Video and several other services.