A young intersex teen comes to term with who they are in J.E. Tiglao’s uplifting drama.

“We can fix this.”

Adolescence can be rough, regardless of your background or current circumstances. It’s full of awkward moments, uncomfortable conversations and probably even more confused Googling. For Adam (Gold Azeron), it’s even worse. Adam was raised as a boy, but was born with both male and female genitals, something that hasn’t seemed to cause him much distress over the years. But things start to get complicated when he first falls for a new transfer in his school, and then immediately gets his first period.

His parents (Ricky Davao and Yayo Aguila) consult specialist Dr Abraham (Germaine De Leon), who recommends surgery – but Adam isn’t convinced, not wanting to choose one gender right away. With support from the new girl, 24 year old Angel, Adam finally begins to embrace both sides of himself. Straight away, it’s worth noting lead actor Gold Azeron who absolutely carries this entire film on his scrawny shoulders, and is able to adeptly channel experiences he never went through. His performance is honest in a way I wasn’t quite expecting, and it’s largely down to his act that the movie works as much as it does.

But still, I have to give kudos to writer-director J.E. Tiglao for opting to keep Adam’s secret for as long as possible. To anyone who went in not having read a synopsis (I had briefly for this post, but had long forgotten it), Adam’s intersex status is a genuine surprise. But what sets it apart is that this isn’t played for shock, instead the reasoning for this delay is to ensure that the audience sees Adam as a fully fleshed out character, one who isn’t defined entirely by his gender.

This means that the decisions he – the pronouns used to describe him in the film – makes are grounded in his pre-established personality and makes him very easy to connect with as a person. Too often characters like Adam are treated, even in the most sensitive portrayals, with these features front and centre, their personalities pushed to the back. Adam’s struggles will for sure resonate with those who have experienced similar things, but there’s also something universal about it all.

Metamorphosis by and large succeeds in what it wants to do, even if it doesn’t always do it with the most grace. Some of the scenes and characters feel a bit easy, especially coming from a film where nuance more often than not takes the stage. The bully especially fits the role of an easy archetype used to progress Adam’s story, but in smaller ways Angel and the friendly (and thankfully not creepy) Dr Abraham, whose stories culminate in a pointless bit of soap opera drama that doesn’t really do much to advance anything worthwhile.

This is largely overshadowed by the film’s many great aspects, from its cast to the gorgeous cinematography, which bathes each scene in warm, natural colours and the occasional strong purple and yellow to represent the intersex flag. As a coming of age film, Metamorphosis has just enough 90s-style cheese to keep a light enough tone, while never underselling its central message. It might not speak as loudly to some, as any dramas of its ilk will, but for many, Metamorphosis is likely to be a transformative experience.

Verdict: Lacklustre third act drama doesn’t change what Metamorphosis has to offer: heart, hope and lots of awkward post-pubescent sex stuff.

Overall entertainment: 7.5/10
Violence: 0/10, but 10/10 for butterfly deaths
Sex: Only the most uncomfortable and extended scenes/10
Filipinos: Apparently all circumcised?
Metaphors: Butterflies, mango trees. All very in-your-face
Cheesiness: 8/10, but who doesn’t love a nice piece of cheese sometimes

Metamorphosis (2019)

Director: J.E. Tiglao
Writers: J.E. Tiglao, Boo Dabu

Gold Azeron – Adam
Iana Bernardez – Angel
Dylan Ray Talon – Supot
Ricky Davao – Edgar
Yayo Aguila – Elena
Germaine De Leon – Dr. Abraham
Bodjie Pascua – Dr. Mortis
Lui Manansala – Principal

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