Film Review: Split

Lila Miller, A&E Editor

Film still from “Split”

M. Night Shyamalan’s latest and long-awaited psychological thriller, Split,has finally been released. The buzz leading up to the films release has generated much speculation regarding content, quality and intense characterization.

“Splitfocuses primarily on the effects of controversial psychological condition of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). Web MD describes the disorder as a severe form of dissociation, a mental process which produces a lack of connection in a person’s thoughts, memories, feelings, actions, or sense of identitythought to stem from a combination of factors that may include trauma…

The last notable film to explore DID could be considered the critically-acclaimed non-fiction, made for television film, Sybil,about a woman with 17 distinct personalities. The many  personalities the woman boasted later turned out to be fraudulent by her own admission.

“Splitstars James McAvoy as Kevin Wendell Crumb, a man who suffers from DID. Crumb is rarely present in the film, McAvoy instead depicts seven out of the 23 personalities that live within Crumbs body.

The premise of the film surrounds McAvoys character as he struggles with DID. The film opens with dominant and controlling personality, Dennis, as he kidnaps three high-school girls from a mall parking lot.

Anya Taylor-Joy plays Casey Cook, the troubled but level-headed protagonist of the three girls. Haley Lu Richardson plays Claire Benoit and Jessica Sula plays Marcia. Claire and Marcia, while sometimes portrayed as flat characters, serve as an intriguing foil to Cook.

McAvoy rotates between several main personalities: Hedwig, a nine-year-old boy; Dennis, a harsh domineering type with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder; Barry, a gay man with a penchant for secretiveness and fashion illustrations; and Miss Patricia, a passive-aggressive, often militant woman.

Miss Patricia and Dennis surface most frequently to set the stage for an other-worldly forthcoming twenty-fourth personality called The Beast.

As many cinephiles have come to expect, Shyamalan is not without his usual plot twists and surprises. Split,released Jan. 20 and has been met with mixed reviews. Without revealing any major points, Splitoffers an intriguing look into a very serious disorder and how the lines between protagonist and antagonist can easily be blurred.

In many films where archetypes of hero and villain exist, there is always an underlying motivation for each character or a backstory that explains their actions. In Split,the plot plays out in what could be considered a role-reversal. Viewers see the man, the monster and the trauma through an entirely different lens.

Overall, Splitturns heads with McAvoys impressive portrayals of very contrasting personalities and abrupt changes. Taylor-Joys acting serves its purpose as aloof, resourceful and ethereal in her understanding of McAvoys role.