Directed by Michael Wong
Starring Han Dongjun, Zhuang Zhiqi, & Jose Acosta
Short Film Review by Chris Olson
Romance is a beautiful genre, especially when filmmakers approach it with stories that are tenderly affecting and bursting with thematic depth. Director Michael Wong delivers a film that is all those things, if a little on the saccharine side.
In The Story of 90 Coins, our two lead characters (brilliantly played by Han Dongjun and Zhuang Zhiqi) are in the throes of young love when we first meet them under the twinkling lights of a picturesque cityscape. The glimmer in their eyes is enough to tell anyone that theirs is a romance in the making, which is then confirmed when the major plot point is introduced. The titular 90 coins refer to a romantic ploy Dongjun plans to embark on, by giving his prospective girlfriend a 10 cent coin every day for ninety days. After which she can either use the accumulated 9 dollars to buy some drinks to toast their departure from one another, or put the money towards a marriage licence. The short film then plays with the timeline, revealing both happy and difficult times our lovestruck couple face.
There is a gorgeous tone to Wong's film that completely captures the dreamlike quality of falling in love. The vivid colours, personal framing of performers, and delicate editing all contribute to achieving a genre film that stays true to its roots. The score also provides an emotional core to the movie, although at times this did slip into department store Christmas Ad territory. Therein lies the biggest possible risk with the film, as some may struggle to slip into the romance of the film if not particularly enthralled by this slightly schmaltzy approach. However, those who enjoy a good romantic outing will have plenty to enjoy.
What was lovely about The Story of 90 Coins was its old-fashioned qualities. It was like a fairytale at times, and in a way that was truly immersive. The characters are delivered in such a loving manner, and then explored more diversely as the plot develops, that audiences will easily be swept up in the gorgeous swoop of the story, like a fable for urban teenager. The movie also picked out a classic theme of love versus personal ambition, but in a way which was compelling and modern (it is Zhiqi's character who contemplates furthering her career instead of love).
There were a couple of excellent sequences that were genuinely moving. One shot following Zhiqi during a cab ride was smoothly delivered, as well as a marvellous and funny scene outside a shop that was really lovely.
This is a film to be engulfed by, to revel in its easily relatable nuances, and to cast your eye on your own life to see how the balance between love and work is fairing. Whilst a little on the sweet side for some viewers, Wong's film is a love letter to love films, a contemplative piece of contemporary cinema that captures a beautiful, emotional tale.