Split tells the story of Kevin (James McAvoy), a man with 24 distinct personalities whose dangerously brute identity, Dennis, kidnaps three teenage girls. It also stars Betty Buckley and Anya Taylor-Joy and is directed by M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable)
My Thoughts On The Characters And Story
Remember that scene in Hook when Pockets gives Peter a face-lift and says “oh THERE you are, Peter!” I want to go up to Shyamalan and declare “oh THERE you are, M. Night!” 2015’s The Visit was a great starting point for the man that brought us “What? No!” and if he keeps up this trajectory with Split and future projects, we are in for a Shyamalanaissance…
This movie simply does not work if James McAvoy is not up to task to portray such strong personalities. Not only was he terrifying at certain parts, he managed to create such distinguishable features for each identity, it was remarkable. During certain instances where one personality was attempting to be another one felt a bit muggy at times but to be fair, it is a wildly ambitious feat to attempt to achieve. I cannot sing the praises of McAvoy enough for his acting capability in Split. He portrays every identity brilliantly and plays off the other characters incredibly well. Anya Taylor-Joy of The Witch fame is fantastic and seeing those pivotal moments in her backstory interspersed throughout the film was a brilliant move. The flashbacks weren’t overused and one specific flashback just gutted me completely, I loved how each one added to her character because without them she would have just been a moody teenager. Her development was executed wonderfully and seeing the various parallels between her and Kevin truly enhanced the watch.
Haley Lu Richardson as Claire gave a pretty good performance whereas Jessica Sula could have been a bit better… By “a bit better” I mean like, a lot. Richardson and Taylor-Joy worked well off each other but unfortunately I felt Sula was on autopilot for most of it. Betty Buckley though was GREAT. I love her portrayal as Dr. Fletcher, you could truly feel the growing frustration she felt trying to convince people of the effects of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)… For all you Netflix fans too, the guard from Orange Is The New Black and Lucas from House Of Cards appear in Split.
How Were The Other Aspects To ‘Split’?
Split was probably one of my favourite movie theatre-going experiences, quite like Lights Out and Don’t Breathe last year. Since this is M. Night at his relative best, there were a few chuckles during certain instances that were meant to be humourous and other chuckles used as a defense mechanism for petrifying sequences on screen. In terms of the “horror” aspect to it, this is a genuinely scary movie. Besides the already petrifying concept that is kidnapping, Shyamalan manages to frame his camera movements so that your eye-line follows where he wants you to follow and the feeling of impending doom is absolutely imminent.
There has also been controversy regarding the depiction of mental illness in Split. Anytime mental illness is involved in a film, it is imperative to strive to not overdo it or depict it in a way that is ridiculing the person suffering from the illness and for what it’s worth, I think the depiction of DID was executed just fine. The amazing performance by McAvoy is not ridiculing the illness at all and if anything, it truly adds to the complexities of his character… Side note: there is an incredible dance sequence that I did not expect at all. If this is the positive trajectory of where Shyamalan is headed, please keep this going, Movie Gods!
If you’re looking for a psychological thriller to watch with a group of friends and want to feel genuinely terrified during certain instances, check out Split.
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Split receives 4/5 Matt Damon heads