When I went into the theatre to view M. Night Shyamalan’s new film Split, I was very skeptical of how impressive this flick could be. It had a PG-13 rating tagged onto a movie that was supposedly a horror film, and Shyamalan’s movies had been largely unimpressive and disappointing to me after he released Unbreakable. I soon learned that a PG-13 rating was generous, and this movie certainly pushed the envelope. To my surprise, Split proved that Shyamalan is back, and in a big way.
The film begins with three teenage girls, Claire, Marcia, and Casey, getting into a car after a birthday party, and they were to be driven home by Claire’s father. Suddenly, a strange man they didn’t recognize got into the driver’s seat. To my immediate shock and everyone else’s in the theatre, he aggressively sprayed the girls with a substance that immediately knocked them out, and he then abducted them.
The girls wake up and find themselves in a dimly-lit basement when the strange man comes back out in an absolutely disturbing manner, and acts very strangely around the girls. We soon find out that the character, played by actor James McAvoy, has D.I.D. (dissociative identity disorder), where his brain makes him believe that he is 23 different people.
This must be said: McAvoy puts on one of the most stellar acting performances that I have ever seen. He starts off as the child-abductor, Dennis, who is a very angry, unsettling man who wants to invoke terror on the girls. He later is portrayed as Hedwig, an adorable nine-year old boy; Patricia, a woman; Barry, a normal man with a New York accent, as well as 20 other unique personalities.
What resonated with me the most about McAvoy’s performance was that I really envisioned each personality as a different person because they were acted out so brilliantly. There is a scene where McAvoy is in the mindset that he is the young Hedwig, and he asks Casey for a kiss. She concedes, and the theatre was smattered with laughs people letting out a long ‘aww’. That was my first reaction as well, until I remembered that this was still an adult male kissing what appeared to be a young teenage girl. It just goes to show how well McAvoy played the part.
Another fantastic aspect of this movie was the Dr. Fletcher character. Fletcher, played by actress Betty Buckley, was the therapist for McAvoy’s characters, as well as other patients with D.I.D. Whenever McAvoy was in Fletcher’s office, he took on the personality of Barry. Fletcher would constantly receive emails from Barry that would appear urgent, yet when he would come in, he would insist that everything was fine, causing her to constantly worry.
Fletcher is portrayed as a therapist who cares deeply for her patients. Not only does she believe in her patients, she also believes that they are capable of more than the average human. That is a huge part of this film. There are constant references to the patients being ‘special’ and ‘extraordinary’, while other people that appear refer to the patients having something wrong with them.
I won’t go too far into this as it will likely ruin the movie, but another riveting aspect of this movie is the subject of abuse. It plays a major part in this movie, and will have you feeling an incredible range of emotions. This may be tough to watch for some.
This movie had extremely stellar acting from top to bottom. Not only was McAvoy incredible, but Casey, played by Ana Taylor-Joy, was also extremely good in this movie.
Shyamalan is known for having huge twists at the end of his films, which many look at as a bad thing rather than good. Here is what I will leave you with: don’t go in to this movie expecting a huge twist, or a corny Hollywood-type ending. Go into this movie knowing that the conclusion is something you will not expect. Stay until the very end for a reference that will likely change your entire outlook on the film. Just make sure that you’ve seen Shyamalan’s Unbreakable.