Director: Derek Hui
Cast: Liu Haoran, Peng Yuchang, Yin Fang
Runtime: 1 hr 37 mins
Released By: Clover Films and Golden Village Pictures
Opening Day: 15 October 2020
Synopsis: This is a youth comedy version of American Dreams in China (2013). Wei Jinbei (played by Liu Haoran), Peng Xiubing (Peng Yuchang) and Li Shaoqun (Yin Fang) are young men of very different personalities. One had tried many times to find success in e-commerce but had failed on every turn in a big city. The other is a village lad, with nothing on his mind but the chase for success. The third one is consumed by romantic visions of life, divorced entirely from reality. They had separately returned from the city to an antiquated town in Yunnan. Brought together by fate, they decided to launch an e-commerce business together. They might have stumbled upon a great idea, but the state of the art nature of their technological pursuit puts them at odds with the fogeyish ways of the very traditional town. With resolve and sincerity, they managed to win over everyone, entering into the eventful journey of a tech startup, a journey at once earnest, vibrant and surreal!
Like the double-yolked egg or the extra piece of McNugget, life can be full of pleasant surprises. Coffee or Tea turned out to be one of them.
What seemed like a predictable fish-out-of-water story of three unlikely business partners, turned up with some really good dramatic moments within moving themes on home, family, and friendship. Don’t get me wrong, it’s funny still, but the wisdom bombs here come like a curveball, and will give you plenty of feels.
The story hinges upon the underdog formula of our leads, but overlaps it with a rich cultural layer courtesy of its film location in Yunnan, China. This spiritual successor to producer Peter Chan’s American Dreams in China benefits from this injection, with the age-old problem of outgoing village youths trying to break their poverty cycle by trying to make it big in the cities, while leaving their aging parents behind.
Wei Jinbei (Liu Haoran) is the failed e-commerce guru who just can’t seem to find the right product to succeed. He’s about to take a step off the roof of his office when longtime courier ‘friend’ Peng Xiubing (Peng Yuchang) stops him to sign for his last package. The enthusiastic deliveryman explains his lofty dreams of creating his own delivery network in rural villages, sensing an untapped market, and convinces Jinbei to help him with his knowledge. For the lack of a better alternative, Jinbei agrees.
What follows is a colourful sequence of how they bring e-commerce shopping to villagers used to shopping at markets, and the challenges that follow from people unused to the ideology. Midway, they encounter Li Shaoqun (Yin Fang) - village outcast and Yuchang’s childhood rival - and discover an unexpected opportunity in his coffee farm.
The film succeeds mainly because of its vibrant setting, engaging cast dynamics and universal underlying themes. While sometimes cheesy or goofy and a little exploitative of village mentality, the film still manages to make it seem good-spirited, likely because everyone seems to be happily hamming it up.
Peng is especially excellent in his role as the passionate but naive village boy who wants to see his hometown succeed, and what could have easily been a one-dimensional performance is livened up by his incredible energy and earnest. Even though his Yuchang is gullible beyond belief, Peng presents a deeper grit, often steering the story’s direction while grounding the trio’s friendship.
The mix of a depressed consultant, ambitious entrepreneur and an idealistic farmer creates a moving tension that works well as the film progresses. As each struggles and overcomes their own personal revelations, the story moves to deliver satisfying closures for each, with a very happy ending of course.
I could do without some of the CGI scenes - a flying pig serving fortune cookie philosophy - and relished more of those such as coffee and tea moments between the village chief and his son Shaoqun, but there’s no need to wonder here - this film is well-suited for both tea lovers and coffee drinkers alike.
(Great character dynamics and a plot rooted with plenty of heart delivers an entertaining film that satisfies)
Review by Morgan Awyong