by Germaine Leow
Before the Coffee Gets Cold: Café Funiculi Funicula is a time-travel melodrama based on the novel by Toshikazu Kawaguchi. The plot solely revolves around the fictional café, Café Funiculi Funicula, in which there is a specific seat that customers can sit at to travel back to a past encounter in that café, after they are poured a cup of coffee. Here’s the catch – they can only stay in the past until their coffee gets cold and finish their coffee before that, otherwise they’ll become a “ghost” bound to that particular seat of the café.
The film promises its audience will “cry four times” with the touching stories of four different people travelling back in time to resolve regrets with their loved ones.
With most the movie filmed in one single location, at Café Funiculi Funicula, some may feel that the film lacks visual variety. I, on the other hand, was rather impressed at how the film managed to retain my attention despite the repetition of scenes (usually unfolding in this particular order: an individual has a personal dilemma, waits at the café for their turn at the seat, the coffee gets poured and they go back in time for a tear-jerking scene). I liked that the movie had one simple plot with several independent stories branching out of it.
The film is consistent with one thing – its simplicity. The four individual stories were simple; cliché even. I could tell what was to come and there weren’t many, or any, surprises in the plotline. The characters were cliché too: an introverted and introspective heroine with a tragic back story, an independent and strong-willed woman who puts on a front to hide her pain, a loving husband who would do anything for his sick wife, to name a few. While most would complain about this, I actually liked how mundane the stories and characters were. They were so ordinary that it felt like stories that lived among us, stories of people like you and I. Although I could not relate to those grieving stories, I definitely felt for the characters.
The film’s only “plot twist” was not entirely mind-blowing – it was a nice twist that concluded the film pleasantly.
I am quite the crier when it comes to sad movies, so I did, in fact, “cry four times”. I do not expect the average person to cry as much as I did but I would expect the film to tug at the audience’s heartstrings and possibly leave them teary-eyed at one point or two – especially for devoted husbands, sisters, and daughters.
Now, you must be wondering why I seemed to have enjoyed a movie I made out to sound mediocre and way too “simple”.
I actually enjoyed its simplicity and ability to get its one simple message across. The characters went ahead to travel back in time despite knowing that it would not change anything in the present time (this is another rule mentioned to them before they time travelled). While nothing did change, their experience allowed them to get closure and improve their future self. I find that utterly beautiful and enlightening. It’s something we can also apply to our own lives – knowing that we cannot change many things but still making the best out of what we have and moving forward with a positive mindset.