99 Problems But Yan Birch Ain’t One.
“A waitress is given the opportunity to change the immediate future. Her life depends on it.”
That’s it, that’s all you have to go on as you get drawn into this short film, which has won multiple awards. 99 Problems is the latest endeavor by Michael Kehoe and it sets up a whole universe of potential which will hopefully be explored in an upcoming streaming series. There is a whole lot going on in just 15 minutes of screen time, so I’m going to try and break it down for you, spoiler-free, of course.
We start off with The Woman (Michelle Renee Allaire) sitting alone in a booth in a small diner. She is joined by the Mystery Man (Richard Leacock), who pulls up in a muscle car and joins her in the booth. He pulls out a strange-looking book with what seems like hundreds of signatures in it and tells her that if he is to help her, she needs to add her signature to the book as well. She also must give him a photograph.
Once he has what he requires, he strolls up to the counter, a few seats down from The Stranger (Yan Birch). The Stranger has ordered coffee with cream, and pecan pie without cream. Mystery Man strikes up a conversation with the waitress (Tori London), asking her what she would do if she had the chance to stop Hitler before he rose to power. He then gives her the photograph he received from The Woman, in which The Stranger is wielding a knife in a threatening manner at the very counter in front of which he was currently sitting. Faced with a new choice, The Waitress then embarks on a series of events that leads to a most unexpected outcome not only for her but for everyone in the diner.
The last several minutes of the film definitely make you rethink that you watched at the beginning and raises a lot more questions that you feel like you need to find out. Between the interactions that occur with The Waitress, The Stranger, The Cook (Sala Baker) before and after the arrival of The Thug (Dennis Keiffer) and The Rookie (Teva Dresbachb Barnea), and the paths and consequences of those interactions, we’re sent on a short journey that doesn’t seem to arrive at its final destination. Oh sure, the story we’re watching seems to be wrapped up nicely, but we can tell that there is so much more to this world than we’ve been shown.
There are so many questions that were raised that I need answered. Who is the good guy in this story? Is The Stranger the hero, or is he a villain? What purpose does the Mystery Man serve? The Woman and The Waitress look very similar – are they the same person at two different points on the same timeline? There’s so much I need to know!
Hopefully, we will all get to see more of this once it’s picked up by a streaming service. I’m intrigued as to where this journey will take us, and I’m ready to be a passenger on this train. There were a lot of people who worked on this project, and they each did their job fantastically. From Michael Kehoe’s direction to the camera operation by Alex Derjavine, John T Connor’s cinematography, to the original music by Alfred Montejano there was nothing I didn’t like about this film. The acting was great, and even though the actors did not have a lot of time together due to health and safety protocols, there was visible chemistry gained while shooting their scenes together. Not only that, no one tested positive for COVID before, during, or after the shoot, which is a testament to the dedication of the crew.
99 Problems is an enigmatic tale of choices and consequences that will leave you demanding more.