The Story of 90 Coins is the directorial debut of Michael Wong, a Malaysian filmmaker currently based in Beijing. It’s the story of a promise made by a passionate man to a beautiful, but reluctant girl, and unfolds over nine powerful minutes.
The 90 coins represent the 90 days which the man gives himself to convince the woman of his love, but they’re also memories; the process of meeting someone, of falling in love, literalised in miniature, wrapped carefully in paper and stored alongside each other. Filed away. As much as it is about love, this is a film that is about the tragedy of lost love, of promises not kept, and how powerful it can be to remember the steps you took to reach a destination, more so than the destination itself.
Wong’s presentation here is simple, but poetic, shot with clarity and conviction on-location in Beijing. The film spins a romantic fantasy that is beset by the mundane realities of life and ambition. It wonders, sometimes aloud, sometimes quietly, if it is worth putting the stability of the long-term in jeopardy for the excitement and unknowns that may be waiting around the next corner. Through the magnificent lensing of D.P. Liwei Jian, The Story of 90 Coins casts a judgeless eye on promises that, through inaction, might become memories, and promises that, through action and belief, might become your future.
Wong and his film have swept up awards on the festival circuit, and you can see why. The Story of 90 Coins might unfold quickly, and be over in less than ten minutes, but it’s a film that resonates; a hopeful exploration of love and life that reminds you, in its simplicity, that there is nothing more complex than sharing your life with someone else.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.