Writer/Director Michael Wong has crafted a gorgeous short film full of romance, hope, and heartbreak. He was kind enough to send me this film to review, but I wasn't sure if I could do it and have been sitting on it for a while now. The Story of 90 Coins is about two young people falling in love. Wang (Dongjun Han) believes he has found the love of his life and wants to marry her, but Chen Wen (Zhuang Zhiqi) is still unsure if she, or they, are ready. Wang asks her to give him 90 days to prove his worth and love to her, giving her a coin each of those days. At the end of the 90 days she can make her decision and they can use the money to get some drinks and part ways or pay for their marriage certificate. The 90 days come and go with the two staying together and never getting married due to other priorities in life. They settle into the monotonous routine of a relationship, losing some of that magic they had in those initial days, until a perceived deception tears them apart. Chen Wen comes across the coins as she's about to move to Paris, discovering that each one had a note written to her on the paper they were enclosed in. She sits on her floor reading each one, remembering the times they spent together and realizing what they've both lost. The film ends with a line of text that reads, “Don't let a promise become just a beautiful memory”.
I was afraid I couldn't properly review this film due to an extremely hard long-term breakup I went through earlier this year. I loved this short film, but it also fucking destroyed me. There's no way I could review this without making it too personal, as much about me as the actual film. Then I thought, screw it. The enjoyment of film/art comes from a mostly subjective place where we are effected by how a work interacts with us personally. I don't write for some big publication where my audience deserves a concise and non-biased opinion on the merits of a film from my professional perspective. I write for what amounts to a glamorized blog that I started, with the majority of my audience being fellow film fiends and other writers/podcasters. So this is probably about to get pretty personal. I left my relationship and any semblance of a life I had for the past 7 years back in February. I loved this person with all I had (and honestly still do), but it just wasn't enough to make it work anymore. There are plenty of mistakes and faults on both sides, but it seemed like it was all there was left to do. I really thought I would be spending the rest of my life with this person, but I guess that's part of what led me to get too comfortable in the relationship and take too much for granted until I was the one sitting on the floor, basking in the memories of what once was.
In the film, Wang and Chen Wen make it through their 90 days, which are full of romance and love, but then decide that it's not the right time to get married and just remain living and being together as time moves on. I actually asked my ex to marry me as well, a long time ago after we moved to Texas together, though not nearly as romantically as Wang. She still said yes and we spent several years engaged, though the time/money never seemed right and we just let it fall away. We viewed it as something we would get to one day...until we didn't. The couple in the film still have a happy life together, but then Wang's jealousy and Chen Wen's burgeoning career cause them to drift apart. Wang leaves and never calls her again, while Chen Wen continues on with her career and decides to move to Paris to pursue it. When we last see Chen Wen, it's as she's sobbing on the floor next to all the notes and coins from their relationship. This is something that's so easy to do, anytime you come across a note, a present, a song...and it can just break you down. That final line of text in the movie, that's what killed me and left me in tears for a while after the film ended. The story and that line struck so close to home, making me think of every dumb mistake I made, every time I let my insecurities get the best of me or let the promise we once had turn into just another beautiful memory. It's something I regret and long for, but it just seems to be gone as we both try to move on with our lives.
This is a beautiful film that was able to hook me in and really touch me in all of 10 minutes, packed with an almost unbelievable amount of romance and character. I think it hitting so close to home isn't just because of my breakup, I believe this is the kind of film that anyone can relate to on some level. We've all made mistakes, let things fall apart for dumb reasons, and have regrets with people that may no longer even be in our lives. This film gets it and can help conjure up those feelings and bring back your own beautiful memories of loss. The two leads have a lovely chemistry and I wanted them to work, if only to reinvigorate my own romantic hope, but then the reality of life came into the story and I respected how honestly it showed the ease of losing it all. The only small downside of the film comes from the character of Andre, the other guy at Chen Wen's job that lures her to Paris. The character is real, with obvious “other guy” intentions, whether Chen Wen buys into it or not, it's just his few lines seemed to be dubbed over by someone trying to imitate a human being, and not doing so hot at it. It's a small gripe, but hell, that could just come from my own biased hatred of people like that (again, close to home). The rest of the film is filled with beautiful shots and music that just explode with the feeling of new and exciting love, but is also able to switch just as easily to the all too familiar feeling of watching that same love break down.
This short has been performing extremely well at festivals and racking up awards, but you can watch it right now on Vimeo for free and I highly recommend you check it out. It may cause you to look at your own current relationships and what promises you want to keep from becoming beautiful memories before it's too late.