#365DaysOfWriting — Day 292

Split

Eenie, meenie, miney, moe…

14 years ago, James Mangold gave us Identity, an Agatha Christie-styled thriller about 10 guests stranded on an island, who are dying one-by-one — and eventually we find out that it’s the fractured psyche of a man with DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder), and its his 10 personalities that are dying one by one. Sorry I didn’t go SPOILER ALERT on this one — it’s a 14-year old movie, for heaven’s sake.

Shyamalan ups the stakes and says — why not have 23 personalities?

There’s no spoiler here — if you know what Split is about, this is basic. James McAvoy plays a man (Kevin) with DID who has 23 different personalities in his head. He keeps visiting his psychiatrist, Dr. Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley) as one of his personalities, Barry (the protective one). Barry is the one who decides which one of the 23 personalities comes ‘into the light’, controlling Kevin’s body. Dr. Fletcher senses something is wrong due to the frequency of the visits, and is concerned that a rumoured 24th personality, named ‘The Beast’, is waiting to come out into the light.

There are 3 rogue personalities.

One is ‘Dennis’ — who is kept out of the light because he has a dirty secret — he likes watching girls dance naked. Not only that, Dennis has OCD and violent tendencies. The other personality is Patricia, who seems to be working in tandem with Dennis and sort of, eggs him on. These two work with ‘Hedwig’, a 9-year old kid, and the third of Kevin’s rogue personalities. These three believe the only way to protect Kevin is to bring out that mythical 24th personality.

‘Dennis’ truly goes rogue.

At a parking lot, he assaults a man and then drives off with his car. A car that has 3 girls in it. He kidnaps them and brings them to his home. And that’s when the game begins… Dennis, Patricia and Hedwig begin interacting with the 3 girls. One of them, Casey (fantastic acting by Ana Taylor-Joy) has a secret of her own — and she seems to be the only one who can handle Kevin’s personalities, especially Hedwig, with whom she strikes a bond.

To know how the story progresses, I’d advise you to watch the film — anything else I say will be a spoiler. It’s NOTHING like Identity, I can tell you that much.

The film itself isn’t perfect.

A good friend told me Shyamalan is an intriguing director even at his worst. Split is Shyamalan at 70–75% capacity. It gets straight to the point and quickly establishes Kevin’s DID. It also does a good job of showing the girls’ personalities — especially Casey’s. But somewhere in the middle, Shyamalan starts beating around the bush. The screenplay comes to a halt, almost, and it’s almost as if he purposely put in some length in the film to be a build up to the unbelievable climax. Sitting in the theatre, I screamed out when it ended. This ending can potentially break you.

In my opinion, James McAvoy has been brutally snubbed this awards season.

This man is a tour de force and plays each one of his personalities with such amazing accuracy, that you can’t take your eyes off him. He, along with Ana Taylor-Joy, should’ve been the toast of the awards season. Perhaps because Shyamalan’s been off his game for so long, no one took this movie THAT seriously.

But Shyamalan’s back, and in essence this story is a critique on human beings. And a message for us all.

We lead different lives in different situations — at home we’re someone, at a party someone else, at work a third person… with the advent of the internet, many of us lead different virtual lives too! There is one personality, hidden deep down, that we fear bringing into the light — somewhat like the mythical Beast. At some level, all of us want to be superhuman — both physically and mentally — and theoretically, this is even possible. But for that, we have to unleash the Beast within. We have to fight the biases in society, and have a slightly devil-may-care attitude, and be ready to take body blows at times.

Only then can we truly be unbreakable.

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