While the movie does some interesting things, it falters in just telling the story of its romance
Ang Pambansang Third Wheel tells the story of Trina (Yassi Pressman), who thanks to a string of bad relationships, as resigned herself to being the third wheel to her coupled-up friends. But then she meets Neo (Sam Milby), who becomes her creative partner at the ad agency they both work at. Trina opens up to him, and she lets herself consider falling in love. And that’s when she meets Neo’s young son Murphy (Alonzo Muhlach). Trina struggles with the complications of having to deal with all the added baggage that Neo brings with him into her life. And she’s soon forced to make tough choices for both her and her new beau.
The movie gets through a lot in its first act. It conveys Trina’s painful romantic past, her relationships with her friends and her dad, the introduction of Neo and their subsequent courtship, which dovetails with the story of her first trial in her new role as an advertising copy writer. The sheer density of this setup makes the the central relationship a little shaky. The movie doesn’t invest enough time to build the depth necessary to justify a lot of what goes on in the meat of the narrative. It at times feels like the characters are talking about a love that we don’t really get to see.
There is a real disparity between the seriousness of the relationship and the seriousness of the obstacles that the characters have to face. The film is never really able to sell this pairing as valuable enough to put up with that level of struggle. What’s worse is that the film cheats through its resolution, denying the characters the chance to work through the obstacles, and instead just conveniently removes them from the picture. The film plays at the same highs as every other romantic comedy, but hardly does the work to earn any of it.
The aesthetic of this film could be described as “Ally McBeal.” It functions on about the same level of quirk as that show, and it’s prone to the same kind of surreal fantasy sequences that speak of the main character’s mental state at any given moment. While it doesn’t feel entirely original, it does feel somewhat fresh for the genre locally. And it allows the film to make some interesting choices, Trina allowed a measure of frankness that is unusual for films of this ilk. But this does become excessive after a point, the ongoing narration of the character tending to overexplain simple concepts.
The pairing of Yassi Pressman and Sam Milby doesn’t feel entirely right. It could just be the difference in age, but their attraction in the film feels like a put-on. They’re just bringing completely different energies to their characters, and it never really clicks. It’s pretty clear, though, that there’s still a lot of upside to Pressman. The commitment that she brings to this role goes a pretty long way, even if the character doesn’t seem very different from others that she’s played. It might be interesting to see the actress being taken out of this comfort zone.
To its credit, Ang Pambansa Third Wheel does do some interesting things. It has at least one really bracing moment, where the character’s ability to step into fantasy is broken down, and she is confronted with a reality that she isn’t prepared to deal with. But while the film displays cleverness, it fails to make its more basic elements work out. The central relationship never quite feels like it’s worth fighting for, and in the end, it feels like the film comes to the same conclusion. Rather than having these characters go through their obstacles, it magically removes what was keeping them apart.
ANG PAMBANSANG THIRD WHEEL IS NOW SHOWING IN SELECT CINEMAS NATIONWIDE
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Rogue.ph. Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.