4 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Sleep On Third World Romance

Filipinos deserve good Filipino movies. And this is one of those.

A love story from the working class, Third World Romance is a bleak yet hopeful take on finding love in the simplest of things.

Related: 4 Things We Adored (And We Didn’t) About Ten Little Mistresses

Mild spoilers for Third World Romance ahead.

Love is the most common theme you’d find in Philippine cinema. As early as the dawn of the Philippine entertainment industry, love stories have been part of the content Filipinos have consumed. There’s no denying the power of a good love story. But in as much as love can come in many forms, so too can it be found in all sorts of places. And that is at the heart of Dwein Baltazar’s Third World Romance as it delves into love in blue-collar life in the Philippines.

The film centers on Britney (Charlie Dizon), a young and outspoken woman desperate for a job to fund the return ticket of her mom from Oman to the Philippines. Luck finds Britney when she comes across Alvin (Carlo Aquino), a laidback grocery store bagger who helps Britney get a job as a cashier at the grocery he works at. The two eventually fall in love, but they soon realize that their paycheck-to-paycheck life may not be the most ideal setting for their love story.

In a sea of major international releases in cinema currently, Third World Romance is a Filipino movie that’s worth supporting with its funny, emotional, and poignant take on romance in a developing nation. We break down just a few reasons why you should give this gem a chance.


Invalid image block format.

As the title suggests, Third World Romance is a love story set in the working class. And right off the bat, the film doesn’t hesitate to depict Britney and Alvin’s hard-scrabble lives. From worrying about paying bills to asking for an extra shift to pay off debts, Britney and Alvin worry about the same things many Filipinos go through daily. The two lead stars aren’t idealists in a sense, but two people who move based on what is needed of them at the moment, especially for Britney.

One of the most poignant scenes to show this is when Britney chases Alvin around the grocery store as she explains that she did what she did because she needed to keep her job. She had to act based on her basic needs because she doesn’t always have the luxury and privilege to follow her heart when her livelihood is on the line. Sure, it’s a rom-com at the end of the day, but one that adds tweaks to the formula. This all gives the movie a unique and maybe even needed perspective on the depiction of love in a genre that often sticks to having its leads in the middle to higher class.

But it’s not all doom and gloom as Third World Romance also imbues its story with heart and a sense of hope. Alvin and Britney just want to be happy, and they find joy in those little things that mean much to them. The movie also ends on a hopeful note and avoids the trap of becoming poverty porn. Despite how hard life is, you still can find happiness in life. Love isn’t just limited to a romantic partner, it can also be felt through family and community. There’s optimism to be found, no matter what shape it may take.   


Invalid image block format.

With projects such as Gusto Kita With All My Hypothalamus and Oda Sa Wala under her belt, Dwein Baltazar has established herself as one of the most talented directors and writers working in the industry today. And her work on Third World Romance is no exception. From one takes, shot composition, camera movement, and more, there’s confidence in the direction of the movie. The scenes set in the grocery in particular stand out as some of the best parts of the movie. Technically and story-wise, the movie works and works well. Visually and narratively, the film doesn’t bog itself down and moves at a brisque pace as we continue to explore Britney and Alvin’s relationship.   


Invalid image block format.

It was to be expected that Third World Romance would center itself on the lives of the working class. But it should also be commended how the film isn’t afraid to go there in terms of touching on the realities faced by millions of Filipinos. From the opening scene set during the onset of the pandemic, which sees Alvin and Britney taking government ayuda to common workers taking the blame for the mistakes of the upper class, and employees fighting for better wages against a greedy boss, the movie goes there. Britney, in particular, isn’t blind to the realities of how unfair and one-sided the system is for people like her.

Yet, all of this doesn’t come off as preachy or forced and instead builds a world that runs on what we see out there. It grounds the film in reality and helps further the idea that the BS of life does get in the way of love. And props as well as how the film portrayed the families of the two leads, from Britney being raised by a single mom to Alvin’s lovingly queer family who aren’t forced to act to get cheap laughs. While this isn’t the main gist of the movie, it’s nice to see more local media move away from the depiction of the nuclear Filipino family to a more open and diverse representation.


Invalid image block format.

If Dwein Baltazar leads Third World Romance with her deft direction and writing (as well as co-writer Jeko Aguado), Carlo Aquino and Charlie Dizon bring that magic to life. Carlo continues to be a reliable presence on screen, but it’s the latter in particular who shines with her dynamic performance. Charlie embodies the hope, desperation, frustration, and tenacity of a young woman, who, at the end of the day, just wants a better life for herself. There’s a beautiful messiness Charlie brings to Britney.

The film would not hit as hard as it does if it weren’t for the magnetism and natural charm Charlie and Carlo bring to the screen. They shift from jovial optimism to quieter moments of silence as they deal with the dehumanizing conditions they are faced with. And of course, it does help that these two are a couple in real life.

Continue Reading: Make Room In Your Watchlist For These New Movies And Shows Of August 2023