TV writer Real Florido makes the big jump to film directing via "1st Ko Si 3rd," one of the entries under the New Breed category of this year's Cinemalaya film festival. It is one of the most highly anticipated film because of the excitement over the screen reunion of Nova Villa and Freddie Webb, who for many years played the married couple Ines and Jimmy Capistrano on TV's popular local sitcom in the 1980s, "Chicks to Chicks."
Cory (Villa) has just retired from her job in a government office. She feels so bored just staying at home with her homebody husband Andong (Dante Rivero), who does nothing but tinker with their old car to try to make it run.
One day at church, Cory catches a glimpse of her first love, the tall, fair and fit Third (Webb). She does not go talk to him, but this sighting brings the spark of life back into Cory, recalling those halcyon days in high school when they were still a young couple very much in love (Ken Chan and Colleen Borgonia).
When Third actually calls to invite her to meet over coffee, just two of them, Cory is flustered but agrees. How will their reunion date fare?
Despite what you may be expecting, this film is far from being a laugh-out-loud comedy. In fact, it is a rather slow and sad look at retirement and the life and love of senior citizens. A lot of times the film felt like it was stagnating, just going around in circles over the same boring issues. This, of course, is to emphasize the extremely depressing boredom of Cory after her mandatory retirement.
It is then a stroke of genius to cast Nova Villa as the central character of Cory. I would say it was Ms. Nova and her natural comic appeal who single-handedly lifted this movie from wallowing in its own melancholy. That scene with Cory chatting online with Third via Facebook for the first time was just so sweet and gleefully exciting. That scene where Cory went to the parlor for a major makeover was funny like only Villa can pull off. She had those subtle little facial expressions that can make a rather mundane scene, like reading old love letters or talking on the phone, come to vibrant life.
Dante Rivero played Cory's husband Andong so naturally and very generously. He plays it so laidback and easy to further emphasize Cory's boredom in their humdrum existence as an old childless married couple.
Newcomers Ken Chan and Colleen Borgonia were delightful as the young Third and Cory. They are attractive and charming together. They do not exactly resemble Freddie and Nova, but we can let that go because of their winsome smiles and effective chemistry. Hope to see more of these two promising actors in future films.
As far as Freddie Webb is concerned, let's just say that the anticipation to seeing them together was much better than when they were actually together. I do not know if Mr. Webb was too nervous or it was the director's instructions, but he was acting so stiffly. For all the build-up to that climactic scene, Webb's stilted performance was rather disappointing for me. You can't deny though that the chemistry is still palpably there.
Overall, "1st Ko Si 3rd" is a simple film about regular people, of senior citizens and their dreams. Honestly, it tells a story you might have already seen before on a TV drama anthology. What makes this film really special is its star, Nova Villa. She definitely gives this film in general that vital spark that elevated its common story into one of uncommon poignancy and charm. 6/10
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."