When Third World Romance had its world premiere as the closing film of Cinemalaya 2023 at the PICC, the movie hall erupted with shrieks, sighs, and cheers. That moment, it was apparent that the movie has the potential to be well-received. But what makes Third World Romance click – and unique – is that it is a combination of romance and relevance, wrapped in ‘star magic.’

Third World Romance, the latest offering of Black Sheep, tells the story of Britney (played by Charlie Dizon), and Alvin (played by Carlo Aquino. Britney and Alvin meet while lining up for ‘ayuda,’ only to be told that there are no more relief packs left. This prompts Britney to take Alvin to the relief headquarters, where they sneak and steal more than enough packs to last them weeks. This ‘adventure’ ignites a connection that blossoms into a romance set amidst the backdrop of poverty and everyday struggle to put food on the table.

Third World Romance

Make no mistake. The movie is foremost a romance. The production does not hide the fact that this is a romantic vehicle for the leads. Yet, the movie is also a commentary on the living conditions of the ‘endo’ workers. It sheds light on the harsh reality of living without any assurance of tenure nor livable benefits. Such backdrop becomes the catalyst to Britney and Alvins’ romance, but it also serves as the harsh reminder that though they made a promise to stand by and for each other, love comes with a cost, and sometimes, choices aren’t free. When a tight situation forces a character to choose, the decision sets off a series of events that will shatter both their love and their job security.

Amidst all the struggles, it is possible to love, and to find a love that you will choose every day over all the convenient choices you can make.

Third World romance is the perfect vehicle to launch the reel-and-real life pairing of Carlo and Charlie. Their chemistry is undeniable and powerful. Their portrayal of their characters exudes different but complementing energies that translate well on screen. No wonder the Cinemalaya crowd did not hold back their ‘kilig.’ Director Dwayne Baltazar knows the formula, and made sure to set up certain scenes to elicit the feels. Most of the time, the film succeeds in this intention, despite some instances when the scene leading to the ‘kilig’ moment feels a bit too contrived. In one way or another, the film could not escape the formula with which its predecessors in the Star Cinema-Black Sheep universe have been molded. Fortunately, the formula still works and with some suspension of disbelief, we as an audience might also believe that it is possible to find a glossy spark of love amidst all the economic turmoil.

The sense of calmness and security in the love that Britney and Alvin share is juxtaposed with the chaos and uncertainty of their daily lives. Working as cashiers-baggers in a grocery store, they experience not only a meagerness of income but also a corrupt practice that entangles them into conflict. The movie succeeds in showing this milieu without being too ‘set up,’ or without resorting to poverty porn. Sure, there is romanticization, some scenes are too ‘in the movies,’ like the confrontation scene between the leads while they walk around the grocery store, getting interrupted by costumers with favors and inquiries. But the movie does not pretend that it is all too realistic. It knows. And we respect that.

At a time when movie viewing is no longer just entertainment but a refuge, it is important to have movies that can marry our sentiments and our fancies. We need to be reminded of the fact that the country we now live in is not stuff for a full-on romantic comedy. However, we must remain positive that amidst all these struggles, it is possible to fight, to rally support, and demand for action and accountability.

Most of all, amidst all the struggles, it is possible to love, and to find a love that you will choose every day over all the convenient choices you can make.

Third World Romance in now screening in cinemas.

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