According to the Beatles, money can’t buy love, but one lovelorn man nearly pulls it off with a mere nine dollars. Oh, but in love, coming close can hurt like heck. Malaysian-born, Beijing-based filmmaker Michael Wong chronicles the bittersweet romance of an obscenely attractive couple in the short film, The Story of 90 Coins, which screens during the 2017 Golden Panda International Film Festival in Vancouver.
After Wang Yuyang confesses his love to Chen Wen, she basically replies she just isn’t feeling it for him. However, the intrepid Wang will not be deterred. He makes her a deal. They will continue to see each other for the next ninety days. At the end of each night, he will give her a coin, which will amount to nine dollars at the end of their allotted time. On that night, they will take the pot and either purchase a marriage license or buy goodbye drinks at food cart where they first met.
Lo and behold, Wang’s plan actually works—at least to an extent. Chen Wen duly falls for the romantic nature of his scheme, yet something probably goes wrong along or the way, or we wouldn’t be using terms like “bittersweet” to describe 90 Coins.
90 Coins is a heck of an impressive debut. Throughout the film, Wong displays a sensitive touch on the helm and a genuine knack for compressed story-telling. Both Han Dongjun and Zhuang Zhiqi give achingly romantic, messily human performances, while looking totally real together. Somewhat ironically, we sort of assume this is Wang’s story, since he is doing the proactive wooing, but the final dramatic dismount is left to Zhuang, who totally nails it.
This is the kind of film that will massively resonate with everyone who has loved and lost, which has to be just about everybody, right? Frankly, the music is a bit treacly (something more Bill Evans-ish really would have been a master-touch), but it will probably still work for most viewers who don’t obsess over soundtrack choices. Regardless, The Story of 90 Coins is a truly lovely short film that eloquently expresses some universal feelings. Highly recommended, it screens this Wednesday (12/6), as part of Shorts Programme 4 at Golden Panda International Film Festival in Vancouver.