KTX review: Trial of a trans woman in 'Versus'

Fred Hawson

Posted at Aug 05 2021 05:12 PM


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For seven years now since the former Leo Santos had a sex change operation, trans woman Lea Santos (Gabby Eigenmann) had been living in Brisbane, Australia with her husband Dave (Jakab Golding), the owner of the massage parlor where she worked. She secretly kept in touch with her kids Nico (Noel Comia, Jr.) and Shamaine (Jilliane Suan) by Skype, despite not being permitted by her ex-wife Baby 

Baby (Sunshine Dizon) is living in Hagonoy, Bulacan with her parents (Francisco Guinto and Erlinda Villalobos) and her sister Nida (Cataleya Surio). She currently has an Australian boyfriend Kurt (Aaron Hewson) who had promised her marriage and migration. One day, when Lea went back home for a visit, Baby's vehement and violent objections for her to see their kids eventually led to a heated custody lawsuit. 

Despite shoots in various locations around Brisbane, Australia and having a couple of Australian actors in the cast, the budget limitations of this indie were reflected in the very spare and basic production values. The set design looked amusingly makeshift. Dave's "massage parlor" looked like an office and the beds looked like tables. The courtroom had the insignia of the Supreme Court dubiously hanging on the wall behind the judge. 

Gabby Eigenmann went all out for his transformation into Lea Santos, wearing a female wig, makeup and clothes practically for the whole movie. He was also very consistent with his feminine vocal inflections and ladylike mannerisms, even during seemingly unguarded moments when he was not the focus of the scene. He was also very sympathetic in those flashback scenes when he was still the gay masseur Leo.

In contrast, Sunshine Dizon portrayed Baby as a very selfish user, inconsiderate and uncompromising. Loud and quarrelsome, Baby was a very unflattering character, and Dizon's constant scowl on her face did not help gain her any favors. 

Noel Comia Jr. still looked very young here which meant that this was shot a few years back. His best scene as Nico was during his testimony in court about his parents. 

This film by Ralston Jover was "Kramer vs. Kramer" with an LGBT flavor. It had a script which felt rather biased towards advocating Lea's rights as a transwoman and a father, while Baby was portrayed as the coarse, unlikable villain. However, Lou Veloso, playing Baby's attorney, did ask Lea valid questions about her abandonment of sworn duties as husband and father, and thus achieved some balance in issue presentation. 

An 11th hour twist saved the ending from being totally predictable.

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."