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Movie Review: '1st Ko Si 3rd' — Nova Villa shines as she pines for the one that got away

American pop artist Katy Perry may just have recently sung about it, but the idea of "the one that got away" is as old as love itself. This concept, so treasured by many hopeless romantics, serves as the central theme for Cinemalaya X New Breed entry, "1st Ko Si 3rd."
Directed by Real Florido, the film revolves around a simple yet unconventional love story. Corazon (Nova Villa), a recently retired government employee, crosses paths again with her first love, Third (Freddie Webb), decades after their abrupt separation. The incident rekindles Corazon's old feelings, and presents a way out of her already monotonous marriage to Alejandro (Dante Rivero).
Worth mentioning first is Villa's outstanding portrayal of the main character. In her first lead role, the veteran actress effortlessly made Corazon relatable to all ages. Her chemistry with Webb, her former television screen partner, shone through even after all these years. Her unquestionable ability to make the audience laugh invigorated the entire film, but she did not stop there. Villa ably showed her versatility by showcasing her dramatic side, powerful even without words.
Villa's performance was well complemented by Ruby Ruiz's portrayal of Maria, Corazon's best friend forever. Ruiz was spot-on in delivering punch lines, but also showed restraint during the movie's tender scenes. It won't be a surprise if she snags another Cinemalaya acting award, similar to what she won last year for the Vilma Santos-starrer, "Ekstra."
The actresses' remarkable performances, however, were not enough to salvage the film's inability to sustain and give depth to its plot. The movie ultimately turned out to be like the love it attempted to tackle: promising at first, but disappointing in the end.
"1st Ko Si 3rd" built high expectations in its first hour. It opened with an accurate depiction of Corazon's fall into post-retirement misery and monotony with Alejandro. The film then shifted into its most light-hearted moments after Third's arrival, demonstrating how an old love can be brought back to life in the modern, virtual world. It was starting to look like an exploration of love against convenience, of the one that got away against the one that has always been there.
The movie, however, falls flat. Its biggest failure was in giving depth to Corazon and Third's separation. It was difficult to understand Corazon's deep present emotions--although effectively conveyed by Villa--when her past remained shallow. Instead of leading its audience to an introspection on the different faces of love (or lack thereof), the movie was reduced to a confusing, sometimes preachy, crawl to Corazon and Third's underwhelming reunion and its aftermath.
To a large extent, "1st Ko Si 3rd" is like the one who got away. It will please you at first with its charm. It will show some emotions. It will make you hold on to some promise. It will build your expectations for a satisfying ending, but it will fail to deliver. It will leave you wanting more, and wondering what could have been, what should have been. — JST, GMA News