In increasingly uncertain times, matters of the heart are hardly spared. There is an ever increasing incongruity between idealism and reality, what we perceive and what we experience, the desire for greater control and the erosion of personal agency in love and life. Michael Wong’s first foray into film with The Story Of 90 Coins highlights the stark disconnect between the visions and realities of love and asks if they can ever be reconciled.
The film itself though is a little too fast-paced. While the intention may be to mimick the hurried and unpredictable vicissitudes of modern relationships, the film does not soak into individual scenes and moments long enough for truly memorable connections and characterizations. I would have loved it if the story was more subtle and less explicit on big plot points and focused more intensely on the unseen emotions that boil just beneath the surface; The emotions that pervade our sense of being, that prevent us from moving forward and fill us with unresolved and repressed feelings. Nevertheless, The Story Of 90 Coins manages to explore how easily realities can become distant dreams in the unpredictable chasm of life.
Wong’s first film is an impressive mix of beautiful cinematography and the dynamism in camera angles. The film looks pretty amazing. Yet, it is undercut by overt messages, lessons and narrations that feel unnecessary. A show-not-tell approach would have been better at portraying more authenticity and generating greater emotion from the audience. Towards the end, I felt somewhat detached at how the film narrated its own thoughts instead of trusting its audience to find their own meaning within the film. Overall, The Story of 90 Coins starts off strongly but does not escape the saccharine and moralizing tropes found in mainstream depictions of love.
Yet, there are good signs to be found in Michael Wong’s first short film. Its distinctive cool hues is a confident choice on his part to form a consistent visual medium that conveys the detachment in modern relationships. The energy in his film-making and ability to transition between timelines and scenes is testament to his creativity. Though The Story of 90 Coins is not ground-breaking and falters on a few fronts, it is a good first attempt that shows interesting promise for what lies ahead in his filmography.