Starring: James McAvoy, Anya-Taylor Joy, Betty Buckley
M. Night Shyamalan’s latest is a welcome return to form that explores new ground and isn’t afraid to get its hands dirty.
Split follows Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) and her two friends Claire and Marcia, who are abducted by Kevin (James McAvoy) after a party. Kevin suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder, and 23 different personalities live inside Kevin’s mind. Two of these personalities, known as “Dennis” and “Patricia”, have been suppressed due to their deviant tendencies. But Dennis and Patricia have worked their way to the forefront, dominating Kevin’s mind, and plan to unleash a new, mysterious, 24th identity.
Right off the bat it should be acknowledged that this film deals with a very real mental illness, and has received criticism for it. While Shyamalan deserves some praise for exploring new ground with this film, and uses it to surprisingly good effect, some aspects do come off as ill-informed or even offensive, even if Shyamalan’s heart seems to be in the right place. Despite this, the film is willing to directly tackle themes that are usually only alluded to or avoided entirely in most films, and for this some praise is definitely earned.
Despite McAvoy’s excellent handling of literally over a dozen characters in the span of a single film, Taylor-Joy is the star of the show. Her character is extremely well fleshed-out, and even though she is painted as an oddball by her colleagues, all of her behavior is explained in a way that will only make the audience sympathize with her more. The horror genre is nothing new to Taylor-Joy, as her role in Robert Eggers’ The Witch definitely proves, and her short but promising career should make horror fans anxious for any future projects she has in store.
With all this said, the ending of Split feels like a leap of faith that didn’t need to be taken. There is a lot of great buildup to what could be described as a disappointment. Apparently multiple endings were written for the film, and one can’t help but feel like one or more of those other endings had the potential to wrap up the film in a way that was just right. But, if you like thrillers that offer something new, give it a chance. After all, getting there is half the fun.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Review by Truman Templeton