REVIEW: On The Third Day a.k.a. Al Tercer Día (2021)

dir. Daniel de la Vega

Many believe a mother’s love to be incorruptible, the strongest force there is, endless and unconditional. In Daniel de la Vega’s latest this maternal affection drives one mother to desperate places as she searches for her missing young son when, following a car accident on a deserted road, Cecilia (Mariana Anghileri) wakes up half-naked in an abandoned house in the woods.

Some elements of On the Third Day feel recycled from other genre outings, but as the events of the crash unfold, Cecilia becomes a more suspicious character as she moves in and out of understanding what’s happened to her: a device that’s imperative in keeping the audience engaged during the less interesting dialogue and more clichéd imagery. Meanwhile as bodies begin to stack up it becomes equally uncertain what type of supernatural element the characters are working against, with a priest (Gerardo Romano) battling what appears to be a demonic force. However as soon as viewers think they know what’s happening, the story pivots to more extreme levels.

The screenplay – written by Alberto Fasce and Gonzalo Ventura – relies heavily on flashbacks induced by hypnotism and, while some expectations are subverted in a surprising way, the opening credits actually give away an ending that’s otherwise carefully protected.

On the Third Day then eventually stuns, but it’s a long and sometimes arduous journey to get to the jaw-drop moment. Many questions remain unanswered and at times character motivations are confusing, but these issues are undercut by the compelling and atmospheric locations and the mystery as it unfolds. Equal parts brutal and tragic, the result is worth wading through the muddy waters to get to the good stuff.


Jerry Sampson

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