As the title of the film suggests, M. Night Shyamalan has chosen split personalities as the theme of this movie.
Like many other moviegoers who are aware of this director’s previous works, deep down, we always hope that he can duplicate the tremendous success and wonderful film Sixth Sense; but this film falls short. The problem with starting with a great film like Sixth Sense is that every subsequent one has to outdo or at least match it for you to be appreciated (or forgiven) by the audience. M. Night has had some good ones: Signs, Unbreakable, the Visit. And some so so ones: The Village (seriously, who would tell a blind person to go out to the forest and walk for miles to get help?), The Happening, the Lady in the Water and The Last Airbender are a few mentions of the latter (that I would’ve preferred to have left unmentioned).
Characters with split personalties has always served as a great platform for a thrilling story. But, I hasten to add, it is a complicated device that needs delicate planning to pull it off. I think M. Night Shyamalan as the Writer and Director of this film does so quite well.
I first came familiar with the controversial subject in the 1980s when Shelley Long starred as Truddi Chase in When Rabbits Howl (1987). (In that film she had 92 personalities.)
We also know the great movie actor Edward Norton today, for his outstanding performance in his major movie debut with Richard Gere in Primal Fear – that great film also dealt with the subject of Multiple Personality Disorder but now known today as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).
It is a fascinating subject: one personality can have diabetes and another can be free of the disease. One can have a stutter and another speak eloquently. I have even read that eye color can change in a person with DID when their personality changes. Unfortunately, the cases are predominately based on a coping mechanism stemming from horrific childhood trauma.
That brings me to Kevin the main character of Split, played so brilliantly by James McAvoy, he has suffered sustained childhood trauma and unlike many others with this disorder he regularly sees a therapist, played so well by Betty Buckley, who knows what some of the personalties are capable of.
There are 23 personalities but we see mainly four of these characters: Patricia a prim and proper middle aged woman type. Dennis the intense obsessive compulsive type. Hedwick, a young playful boy afraid of the grown ups. And Barry a gay fashionista. It’s Dennis that decides to brazenly abduct three teen girls in a car and place them in his basement.
Dennis believes that people who have had a sheltered existence are somehow impure and that steel is forged and rationalises like Nietzsche’s ‘Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger’ type of reasoning. However, one of the girls he abducts has suffered horrific abuse herself which provides an interesting turn of events. What keeps everyone in suspense as the personalities warn of is the imminent arrival of The Beast; that is capable of extraordinary feats and horrendous evil.
The M. Night twist at the end of the movie is a twist in itself. This movie, as it turns out, is a part of an even greater twist of a previous M. Night film of the previous decade. How this pans out remains to be seen as some further story developments are in the works.
I liked this film and am intrigued enough to see what happens next. 3.5 Stars.
Take Care & Cheers
Written & Directed by M. Night Shyamalan.