C1 Originals review: 'Metamorphosis' sheds light on intersex people

Fred Hawson

Posted at Nov 13 2019 12:14 PM | Updated as of Nov 13 2019 12:15 PM

C1 Originals review: 'Metamorphosis' sheds light on intersex people 1
A scene from Jose Tiglao's "Metamorphosis"

Adam Bonifacio is a 14 year-old senior high student in the rural town of Natividad. He is the son of a Christian pastor Edgar and his illiterate wife Elena. Because of his androgynous look, he was frequently bullied in school. He became close friends with Angel, a 24 year-old woman who joined Adam's class to earn a secondary school diploma. One day, Adam came home sick in the stomach, with a red stain on the seat of his pants. 

Young actor Gold Azeron had his work cut out for him when he played the physically and psychologically disturbed teenager Adam. He had the right look and build for the role with his face which may look male or female in different scenes. More impressive was his very realistic in his attack on his role with all the confusion and vulnerability of youth. His sensitive performance definitely puts him in strong contention for the Best Actor award.

Iana Bermudez played Angel, a trusted best friend and a bad influence in one. Ricky Davao and Yayo Aguila provided consistently excellent support as Adam's concerned parents. Davao's occupation as a religious pastor, made him voice the opinion of the church sector about this issue. Ivan Padilla was rather awkward as Dr. Tolentino because of his distracting American accent when he attempted to talk in Filipino. In a more minor yet key role, Bodjie Pascual played neighborhood doctor Dr. Mortiz with his delightfully subtle voice inflections.

We only hear about intersex or hermaphrodite individuals when they are involved in sporting scandals. Apart from these fleeting news articles, we basically know nothing else about them -- how they live their lives raised as a certain gender, and yet face complex psychological challenges every day because they possess both male and female sexual organs and do not understand what was going on in their bodies. Director Jose Tiglao chose to use the metaphor of a butterfly coming out of its cocoon to illustrate these issues.

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Adam had been raised as a male all his life. However, time came when he and his parents finally had to face the hard truth head on. There was an endocrinologist character in the film to lay down the scientific facts about this condition. There were three types of hermaphrodites, based on the gonads and genetic karyotype one possessed. The issues surrounding surgery were tackled, and their potentially devastating psychological impact when done without the patient's full informed consent.

"Metamorphosis" had first been rated X by the MTRCB and banned from public exhibition apparently because of certain sensitive scenes of sexual nature. I suspect the scene which raised the film censors' eyebrows was one protracted scene of a naked Adam pleasuring himself via his two sexual organs. This uncomfortable scene, while may be needed in the story, lasted longer than it probably should have. The director wisely chose to end it on a comic note to diffuse the tension it created. That scene with Dr. Tolentino in bed, however, was a little over-the-top, and felt out of place in the general tone of the film.

Fortunately, Tiglao won his appeal and gained an R-16 rating instead and was therefore allowed to be shown during this current Cinema One Originals film festival. This controversy will definitely drive up public interest to watch this film, which is good news for a bold and important work that aimed to illuminate the public about the various issues surrounding intersex individuals. 

Now "Metamorphosis" is bound to win Best Picture of this festival, and make it to numerous year-end lists of the year's best films.

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