Split has some great title design, created by the prolific Aaron Becker, I really like the effect they lent to the opening of this picture. Shame the rest of the flick was a garbage garbage trash heap. For some reason people are taking Shyamalan seriously again. Why? The man has done nothing to deserve it. He puts out one film that isn’t tripe and suddenly everyone is holding their breath. Probably because it was a Blumhouse joint, and maybe giving him a low budget to operate on was an easy way to lend credibility to his efforts. Now he’s back in the doldrums with the rest of his career lows and people are treating his latest like it’s a legitimate text. Maybe because it has James McAvoy acting in it? I don’t know what spell it casts.
The formulation of this move is really immaterial. Shyamalan’s direction continues to be wooden and uninteresting. The way that crucial scenes are shot is baffling and incomprehensible, even in simple dialogue scenes the framing is somehow worse than pedestrian. Anya Taylor-Joy continues to be an interesting young talent. James McAvoy is like some sorta Hollywood star but any discussion of is acting in this film is impossible due to the character he portrays, so I’m not even gonna comment on the how of his performance. ‘What?’ is a more interesting discussion. ‘Why?’ is the essential one.
So James McAvoy plays a character with dissociative identity disorder. One of his personalities kidnaps three young children. More than one of his personalities intends to feed them to another feral personality called, ‘The Beast.’ Somehow people have forgotten that this might be an offensive plot. That, oh it’s wacky and crazy, how could anybody take it seriously. Oh it goes to great pains to name the disorder DID, but all that undone when you call the movie Split. You got a psychiatrist character here who be chatting and chatting but I don’t think in writing the script Shyamalan did any sort of research. Any sort of due diligence. This is how neurodivergence gets stigmatised and it don’t matter if all you’re trying to do is make a silly horror film cuz these things matter.
Yes, DID is a topic which is still debated within the psychiatric community. And let’s say, for that reason, you don’t really care too much about the people who suffer from it. Let’s look at how these identities are portrayed. Hedwig is characterised as a young child, and her character is largely played as a sort of sinister comic relief. Y’all get that there are adult people with developmental difficulties, who may present or express themselves in a childlike manner. Y’all blind M. my boy? Don’t get how portraying this character is in any way inappropriate? How about the fact that this personality’s motivation is to be taken seriously by their peers. Wow, don’t see how this could be harmful in any way.
Moving on to how the female personalities are represented, cuz, oh great, ain’t that always a charm? Ain’t it always so great for everyone involved when we this happens? The female personalities are basically either played for comedy or threat. Because that’s all that non-normatively bodied women can be can it? Especially (eugh, this is entering murky territory) when entering discourse around women with traditionally masculine bodies. ‘Kay, the character is not a trans character, but that’s the clear language we’re talking about here. And the reduction that is applied to these characters is the same that has been repeatedly applied to trans characters throughout history. They are a threat, in the case of Patricia, a clear Nurse Ratched type expy, that sort that serves to undermine powerful women by explicitly framing them through a patriarchal lens. Or another, Lucy, a character whose expression is more typically feminine and boy ain’t that fucking hilarious, ain’t it M.? Someone who outwardly appears to present male acting in a typically feminine way? Hold me, for my sides are splitting.
Oh, and let’s cap it all off here with the childhood physical (and implied sexual) abuse that Shyamalan unthinkingly doles out to his characters. In an attempt to provide them with what? Well, the answer seemingly here is character as there ain’t nothing interesting about these people. They need to suffer though. How else would one become mentally ill? Why else would we have a reason to care for the safety of our lead? It is a pure lazy choice in order to present some half-baked attempt at character development and a late stage plot resolution. It is disgusting that this material should be handled with such little care or even interest from the screenwriter.
Split, as it turns out, is not funny, nor scary, nor any sort of interesting that would make it worth watching…
Split, more like Shit.