Movie Review: Ang Pambansang Third Wheel Charges Forward With Charm But Doesn’t Know When to Stop

TL;DR: Ang Pambansang Third Wheel (The National Third Wheel) charges forward with charm & energy, but that proves to be its greatest strength & weakness.

Trina (Yassi Pressman) has never had it easy when it comes to love. She’s the eternal third wheel; cheated on by men multiple times & constantly surrounded by her friends who have their own romantic relationships, as if rubbing her singlehood in her face. She finds hope when she meets the handsome Neo (Sam Milby), an aspiring applicant in the marketing agency she works for. She’s immediately smitten to his charms, but they don’t get along easily due to her stubborn nature & her bitter view of relationships. Once she starts to open up, they become a couple; with Trina celebrating that she’s finally stopped being the third wheel. That celebration is short-lived when Neo reveals that he has a son Murphy (Alonzo Muhlach) from his ex-girlfriend Monica (Sam Pinto). At first, she’s mad that Neo didn’t reveal he has a son & scared at the prospect of becoming a stepmom, but once she decides to continue dating Neo, she finds herself trying to adapt to Neo’s complicated family arrangement.

What makes Ang Pambansang Third Wheel (The National Third Wheel) notable is its pacing. It zips by with the help of Trina’s narration; allowing her to comment about the events unfolding in her life, & at times, cut away to her fervent imagination. It makes for a bouncy, energetic movie that gives life to well-worn tropes, & pushes the movie towards more interesting material; exploring the various ways one can be a third wheel & the different dynamics of a separated family. Unfortunately, it doesn’t know when to stop. It’s apparent in the latter half, where it continues to push forward without giving it time to breathe. While it makes a bit of thematic sense & it never forces its characters to act unnaturally, it feels like the movie contorted itself towards its inevitable conclusion.

Thankfully, the cast keeps it from spinning out of control. This is a total showcase for Yassi Pressman, whose bubbly energy & prickly nature doesn’t belie how stranded she is when trying to ingratiate to Neo’s family. Sam Milby isn’t just here to display his charm & his beautifully sculpted abs either. He gets to shine as a man trying to atone for his past mistakes, but finds himself stuck between two priorities. Sam Pinto isn’t painted as Neo’s spurned, vengeful ex, but as a smart, responsible single mother who finally gets a shot at achieving her dreams. And while Al Tantay gets an undercooked subplot, he’s a warm presence as Trina’s father, & their paternal pairing is the best relationship in the movie. It’s not a slight against the movie nor its charming leads, but their loving, supportive relationship is endearing & provides the movie a fascinating way to view Trina’s circumstances.; especially when it leans into this by the end. This would’ve helped it resonate more, but Ang Pambansang Third Wheel has moved so fast at that point that it ends up as a fizzy confection with fascinating layers, never coalescing into a satisfying whole.


Movie Review: Magbuwag Ta Kay Gives Us Many Reasons To Watch Another Breakup-Focused Romantic Comedy

TL;DR: Not only does Magbuwag Ta Kay (Let’s Break Up Coz) prove that Cebuano cinema is alive & well, it’s also a novel, bittersweet take on breakups.

It’s always a blessing when regional cinema reach audiences outside where it came from. There are lots of stories waiting to be told to a wide audience, using a language rarely heard in our Tagalog-centric Filipino media. 

That’s why the commercial release of the Magbuwag Ta Kay… (Let’s Break Up ‘Coz) is already a cause for celebration. It’s a Cebuano independent film that didn’t go through the festival circuit for it to get made & it’s being distributed by Viva Films; one of the biggest Filipino movie studios. It’s a Cebuano film that can easily resonate to people outside of Cebu, proving that using Visayan & Mindanaoan languages is not a hindrance in telling relatable stories.

And you couldn’t get more relatable than a movie about breakups. The couple at the center of this funny, bittersweet romantic comedy comprises of Kaye (Akiko Solon) & Roy (Rowell Ucat a.k.a. Medyo Maldito). Both of them are college sweethearts & their love for each other remains strong. However, Kaye will be migrating to Canada in a month. Roy is shocked & devastated by this news. She wants to continue their relationship even if they are a million kilometers apart, but he doesn’t want to pursue their relationship without her by his side. So they both decide to split up by the end of the month, & enjoy each other’s company before she leaves the country for good.

It’s a fresh take on a genre filled with heartbroken men & women trying to move on from their pain & sorrow. Their separation isn’t caused by infidelity or an irreparable mistake. These two well-adjusted people are devoted to each other, but decided to split up because one of them wants to forge a new path for herself. It’s a grounded, emotionally mature take on breakups, & it mines this rich thematic vein for all its worth. That means even the movie’s funniest scenes – which includes Kaye revealing the bad news to Roy & the two of them hanging out on the beach – are undercut by a sense of uncertainty & sadness looming over them.

Rowell Ucat & Akiko Solon are a huge key in making it work. With the help of a hilarious, emotionally incisive script, they are able to make us root for a relationship on the verge of its demise. Both of them have a charming, easygoing presence & their chemistry feels warm & natural. You could easily watch them talk & joke  around for hours. Rowell Ucat gets to show off his great comic timing. Akiko Solon absolutely nails her dramatic moments.

They also keep the movie in focus, even as it adds a seemingly irrelevant plot in the middle of the movie. It isn’t integrated properly to the movie & it feels tacked on, even as it adds another layer to its themes. Still, Magbuwag Ta Kay never loses sight of the main couple & their problems, even as it goes through its bittersweet end. While breakups are painful, there’s more to life than romantic love & we’d be better off sharing that love to those who need it.

      Movie Review: Amnesia Love’s Likability Keeps It From Being Forgettable

      TL;DR: Amnesia Love may be good-natured & respectful to its characters, but it’s not funny or clever enough to rise above mediocrity.

      It’s disappointing that Amnesia Love isn’t as great as it should’ve been. It has a promising conceit that could’ve explored the complexities of gender & sexuality in a cheery, hilarious manner, but the whole movie just isn’t up to the task.

      Kimmer (Paolo Ballesteros) is a famous social media blogger with an abrasive attitude. He is overwhelmed by work, causing him to lash out at others. His boyfriend Macky (Polo Ravales) suggested he should go on a hiking trip to clear his mind. But while trying to pick a wildflower blooming near the edge of a cliff, he falls through the sea & washes ashore on a faraway island bereft of internet access. A group of kids rescue him & bring him to Ka Andeng (Lander Vera-Perez) & Aling Mareng (Maricel Morales); a friendly, highly respected couple on the island. He survived the fall, but he is afflicted with amnesia. While adapting to his new life on the island, Ka Andeng & Aling Mareng’s daughter Doray (Yam Concepcion) arrives at their home during her college break. She’s  deeply suspicious of Kimmer’s motives, but they form a romantic bond once they get to know each other better; where he’s even fighting her annoying suitor Edwin (Vandolph Quizon). But flashes of his past life keep haunting him, including an attraction to a hunky fisherman Isdanny (Sinon Loresca) that he keeps hiding.

      Amnesia Love is a broad romantic comedy that plays with the idea of gay man struggling with his sexuality caused by his amnesia for laughs, but it does so without being cruel. It never demonizes Kimmer for being gay & his relationship with Macky is never treated as a joke. Even Kimmer’s attraction to Doray is even treated seriously, even as Kimmer has doubts about his sexuality; subtly supporting the idea that gender is a spectrum. The humor stems from contrasting Kimmer’s life before & after being beset with amnesia on an island with very traditional gender norms.

      Unfortunately, the movie just isn’t funny or clever. Most of the jokes are hacky & clichéd & the situations Kimmer finds himself in aren’t clever. It’s stuck using stereotypes as a source of its humor, & while it retains its genial tone, it’s just shallow & tired. It also has an annoying tendency to use overbearing music to punctuate some of the jokes, which makes it worse. It can also be needlessly contrived at times as it tries to come up with ways to keep Kimmer from staying on the island, including a third act twist that never makes an impact besides making the movie’s running time longer. Amnesia Love may be amiable, but the whole movie coasts on its charms to deliver a movie that is completely mediocre.