VOD Review - The Third Party (Pride Month 2019)

June is Pride Month, the month that was established to promote LGBT rights and celebrate that same community. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in 1969, which most agree was the start of the gay rights movement in the United States. There are various events happening in New York City, the home of Stonewall, to commemorate the anniversary. Some of those events include film screenings. The golden anniversary has made me want to spotlight queer films or television programs that have recently been released within the past year. Prior to Pride Month 2019, there have been several titles for which I've already written reviews that are notable. They include Pose on FX, Alex StrangeloveTransMilitaryEvening ShadowsWe Are Thr3eSorry AngelSpecialBooksmart and Rocketman.

In preparation for Pride Month though, I recently watched four films that were all about gay Asians. When it comes to films about queer people from the east, Ang Lee's The Wedding Banquet (1993) and Wong Kar-wai's Happy Together (1997) still stand as two of the best in that regard. I've also enjoyed the works of Ray Yeung, including Cut Sleeve Boys (2007) and Front Cover (2016). These four, which were all made available online this year, all represent an interesting range of stories about gay people and their families. Each is about a gay person reckoning his identity to either his parent or his child. It felt like I should connect them and analyze the differences or variations.

To check out the other three gay Asian films that I'm linking together, check out the reviews for All in My Family by Hao Wu from China, Dear Dad by Tanuj Bhramar from India and Dear Ex by Kidding Hsu & Mag Hsu from Taiwan.

Jason Paul Laxamana is a Filipino filmmaker. He's been a pretty prolific director over the past decade, having directed nearly two dozen films. He's done over a half-dozen, since this film was released in 2016 in his home country and Canada. Like All in My Family, the story focuses on a gay male couple trying to have a baby and using a surrogate to do so. However, Laxamana's film should definitely be seen as a cautionary tale of what a gay couple shouldn't do when going down this road.

Angel Locsin (pictured above) stars as Andi Medina, an aspiring fashion designer who dreams of going international with her own clothing line. Her college years and even post college years have been wrought with financial difficulty. She had a job working at a nightclub where she was dating one of the musicians who played there. When she loses that job and her boyfriend, she hits rock bottom, having to move into the already crowded home of her aunt. Things also get even more hairy when she realizes she's pregnant by her ex-boyfriend who's left the country. She now has to decide whether she's going to keep the baby or not, even considering abortion.

Sam Milby also stars as Max Labrador, a cosmetic surgeon who mainly does breast augmentations. He was born and raised in the Phillippines, but he left to attend medical school in San Diego, California in the United States, seven thousand miles away. While he was pre-med, he was Andi's boyfriend. She breaks up with him when he decides to go to San Diego. He returns four years later and he calls Andi. She thinks that perhaps she'll be able to start dating him again. However, he reveals that he has a partner now, a male partner.

Zanjoe Marudo co-stars as Christian Pilar, a pediatric oncologist who is the aforementioned, male partner for Max. Christian though is more openly gay. For example, Christian's parents know that he's gay and support him, whereas Max's parents don't know. Christian loves Max and he wants to spend the rest of his life with Max, even raising a baby with him. Unfortunately, same-sex marriage and adoption by gay couples are against the law in the Phillippines.

When Andi announces that she's pregnant and wants to get rid of her baby, Christian comes up with the idea that she can give her baby to him and Max to raise. There are all kinds of red flags to them doing this, but Christian uses his wealth to convince them both to go forward with this idea. The screenplay clearly is aware of the legal limitations, but it's never verbalized in the film, but there's never any mention about Max and Christian officially adopting. Even if the gay couple drew up a contract where they would be the legal guardians of Andi's baby, it's unlikely that contract would hold up in court, due to the country's laws.

It's never clear if Andi would be a part of the baby's life after it's born, given that she didn't want it, or if all three would raise the baby together. Those post-birth details are never discussed. There's never even any mention of the biological father who technically would have the right to claim the baby, particularly over the gay couple. It's just assumed that the biological father would never be told. Everything is left in this vague space where at the end of the day, Andi has the power to change her mind and not give her baby to the gay couple at any point.

This is where the tension of the film is built because Andi becomes the titular "third party" or "third wheel" where she starts to come between the gay couple. Given that Max used to date Andi, it's suggested that he's either bisexual or sexually fluid, not totally gay. He didn't break up with Andi. She broke up with him, so he still has lingering feelings toward her. The question arises of whether he could go back to her, effectively dumping Christian. In his choosing or being put in the middle, there is a funny moment that isn't highlighted where Max sits between Christian and Andi. In Christian's lap are brownies and in Andi's lap are cookies, and it's a quick visual double entendre of them offering both to him and him having to decide which he wants.

Without the context of where this story takes place, a lot of this was a replay to me of the story on the New Zealand soap opera, Shortland Street between Jack Hannah's attempt to have a baby with his partner, Lincoln Kimiora and their surrogate Nicole Miller. The series of episodes of this storyline between Jack and Lincoln are available on YouTube via Anthony Langford's channel. As a soap opera, it obviously had more time to get into all the intricacies. This film is simply playing with a queer love triangle. In that, it's different from most.

While it might seem self-serious, Laxamana's tone is very airy and fun. It's more of a modern-day, romantic comedy. It's peppy in a lot of ways. It's very bright. It never really goes to real dark places. There's genuine emotions between the three, but it's never a heavy thing to behold.

Rated TV-MA.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 57 mins.

Available on Netflix.


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