Festivals, Reviews

Cinema One Originals 2019: ‘Metamorphosis’ – Arresting but ultimately shallow

Warning: Major spoilers ahead!

Jose Enrique Tiglao’s Metamorphosis is the first Filipino film to feature an intersex character. Adam (Gold Azeron) is just a regular 14-year-old trying to navigate his adolescence: homework and projects, being a good son to his religious parents, impressing his new classmate, and defending himself from bullies. Raised as a boy his whole life, Adam gets his first period, and after a series of tests, he learns that he is intersex.

Metamorphosis is predictable and plagued with technical issues. It underestimates the audience’s ability to understand Adam, over-explaining and filling the screen with metaphors and metaphors on end. It leaves nothing for the audience to figure out—it is at its best when it just lets you be with Adam and his struggles and anxieties. The screenplay is clunky, with scenes and lines that feel forced and cliched. Its supporting characters are compelling, but the writing fails them; they are not fleshed out and are simply there to serve Adam’s narrative. Angel (Iana Bernardez), a 24-year-old woman in Adam’s high school class, moonlights as a sex worker, though this merely serves to parallel Adam as an intersex teen.

The film’s exposition is slow and dragging and it rushes through the third act. It sends a message of support and acceptance, but how it gets there is contrived. Adam arguing with his parents, his parents arguing about making choices for him, and his parents accepting him and giving him the choice to decide; these all happen in one night. Additional scenes with his parents could have made it work.

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Azeron shines as Adam, his performance naturalistic and able to capture the anxieties of figuring out one’s identity; though I wish they cast an intersex actor. Bernardez’s performance complements Azeron’s, and she works well with what the screenplay gave her. Tey Clamor’s cinematography is arresting and makes up for a lot of the technical issues in the film.

Metamorphosis leaves much to be desired. While you can see Tiglao’s care and genuine intentions in telling Adam’s story, it’s bogged down by a clunky screenplay that could have used a much-needed rewrite. It being the first Filipino film to feature an intersex character is commendable, but such shallow representation isn’t enough.

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