The Story of 90 Coins (2015): Sheer Perfection (Review) [Update]

Zhuang Zhiqi as Chen Wen

[Update] We have included a link to the film on Vimeo and the film’s Facebook page at the end of this review.

Every once in a great while someone will create something that is sheer perfection. An effort that marries concise storytelling with an unsurpassed beauty that speaks to the romantic heart beating in our chests. The Story of 90 Coins, helmed by first time director Michael Wong and starring a cast of relative unknowns is nigh on perfect.

Running just over nine minutes, the short film tells the story of Wang Yuyang (Dongjun Han) and Chen Wen (Zhuang Zhiqi) and, later, peripherally Andre (Jose Acosta) who intrudes on the couple’s relationship.

The film starts with Wang trying to convince a hesitant Chen Wen of his love. She resists a proposal by saying she does not feel the same way. He then suggests a 90 day period in which he proves his love to her. Chen Wen agrees.

Each day, YuYang gives his love a coin. At the end of 90 days, he says,  if she accepts him he will use the money to purchase their marriage certificate.  If she does not choose him, Wang says,  they can buy a few drinks where they first met and never see each other again.

Chen Wen narrates the 90 day process, where Wang gives her a “gift wrapped” coin every single day. She relates that they became a couple almost unconsciously. They do not,  however, marry as originally planned by YuYang, she is not ready just yet.

Enter the presence of Andre, a fashion designer who has his own designs on Chen Wen. Wang is concerned and jealous of this hopeful suitor. This leads to a break in relations and Chen Wen decides that perhaps Wang is not the soulmate she agreed to marry.

As she prepares to leave, she learns that inside each carefully wrapped coin is a love letter from YuYang. We are treated to a montage of funny, loving and touching moments that show just how special that 90 day time period really was.

In his first time in the director’s chair, Michael Wong has hit, in sports parlance, a home run. The Story of 90 Coins takes us through a plethora of emotions all in just over nine minutes.

The tale, and the actors who tell it, takes us back to that  one true love we all worked so hard to keep. We feel the euphoria of young love, the pain of breaking up and the bitter regret that follows.

Written by Bai Xuedan the short film is a thing of beauty. Cinematographer Liwei Jian presents each frame flawlessly. The trio of this intimate cast come across as gorgeously young creatures that we fall in love with. Even the interloper Andre is seen as an unbelievably attractive threat to Wang’s relationship with Chen Wen.

The editing is perfect and the ending, which according to the trivia found on IMDb was not as planned, leaves us forlorn and pinning for what we may never have.

At its very core, Wong’s romantic drama can be seen as an intricate take on the old bon mot of “women never knowing what they want until it’s gone.” Michael gives us a punchline presented so beautifully that we might just miss the implications at first glance.

The very power of this film to make us weep, both for joy at young love and for the loss of it later on, is a testament to the talent of this new director.

Out of the 5 star scale used by Mike’s Film Talk to score films, The Story of 90 Coins is a clear 6. Concise, stunning and poignant, this film does it all. With 11 festival awards and a further six nominations this is a brilliant first time effort. We cannot wait to see more from Michael Wong.

For more information about the film head on over to the official Facebook page. You can watch the film here:

The Story of 90 Coins from Michael Wong on Vimeo.

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Author: Michael Knox-Smith

World traveler, writer, actor, journalist. Cinephile who reviews films, television, books and interviews professionals in the industry. Member Nevada Film Critics Society

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