Review: Metamorphosis

Written and directed by J.E. Tiglao, co-written by Boo Dabu, born with both male and female genitals, but raised like a boy by his conservative family, Adam goes through all the things prepubescent boys go through, until he gets his first menstrual period. His bucolic world turns upside down setting him off on a journey that tests the spiritual and physical limits of sexual identity and into a new world of ambiguity and desire. Starring: Gold Azeron, Iana Bernardez, Dylan Ray Talon, Ricky Davao, Yayo Aguila, Germaine De Leon and Bodjie Pascua.

Exploring the experience of intersex people is something rarely seen in media, J.E. Tiglao is breaking fairly new ground with Metamorphosis. There’s no one definition for what it means to be intersex, it’s a complex condition which can appear differently in each case. That’s not to say the emotions and experiences of this film are going to be completely foreign to viewers, there are plenty of relatable themes. The key one being finding your place and your identity in the world, it’s an elusive realisation that people struggle with daily. It also keenly delves into the ideas of gender stereotypes, especially in relation to conservative values and religious communities. Then how that can influence the way in which decisions are made for those underage, and how they can often not reflect the wishes of the child. There’s a lot of layers at work and it brings up a very worthy discussion which is hugely relevant today.

Initially J.E. Tiglao’s direction, along with Tey Clamor’s cinematography, create an endearing atmosphere of innocence and curiosity. There’s a strong use of colour to feed into the feeling of youth and unbridled energies and desires. It holds a sympathetic air but it’s also not too soft, there’s an unusual edge to a number of its scenes. An edge that is more effective with some than others, when it deals with sexuality it pushes into obscurity and can feel uncomfortable, particularly in that it deals with large age differences. Additionally, as it reaches its final scenes, it gives in to more superficial choices which is slightly disappointing.

Taking on the role of Adam puts a huge weight on Gold Azeron’s shoulders, he’s an intensely complex character to tackle but he’s clearly up to the challenge. His performance brings a sincere and heavy vulnerability, he gives a strong feel of personal perspective to the film. There’s a huge sympathy at work but he’s also got the rebellious, arrogant and defensive side to him, he’s not simply the nice guy. It gives a great authenticity to his experience, to see the struggle, denial and the classic refusal to take things seriously that goes along with being a teenager. Iana Bernardez provides a perfect scene partner for Azeron, pushing him to be more open with his feelings and giving him a safe haven. Bernardez also brings a number of layers to Angel, she’s got enough of a backstory to have filled her own feature.

Metamorphosis presents a personal, honest portrayal of a young, intersex man coming to terms with his identity. Led by a raw performance from Gold Azeron, and supported by an equally strong cast. J.E. Tiglao does a great job of translating the film’s themes into its aesthetic and atmosphere, capturing the youth, energies and innocence. There are a few weaker choices along the way which prevent it from reaching its full potential but regardless, it’s an impressive feature debut from Tiaglao.

Verdict: ✯✯✯ ½ | 7/10

Celebrates its UK premiere as part of Queer East Film Festival 2022 at BFI Southbank on 29 May

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