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'Split'

Review of the 2017 film

Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, Split stars James McAvoy as Kevin Wendell Crumb, a man with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). DID is a personality disorder in which a person has two or more identities separate from each other.

24 Identities

In reality, people with DID have at least two identities (possibly at least three as some believe that at least one identity is always unknown or hidden). These identities are often referred to as "alters."

In Split, the antagonist reveals that he has 23 known personalities and believes there to be a 24th emerging.

James McAvoy shows his versatility as an actor by not only playing eight of these identities but also playing one of the identities pretending to be another.

While other films and television shows seem to confuse DID with other personality disorders or represent them in a stereotypical or negative way, Split is, in the main, far more realistic and sensitive to the subject. Of course, there is dramatisation but, overall, the film shows that the creators had done their research and have an understanding of the disorder.

Is it a true representation of DID?

As Dissociative Identity Disorder manifests differently with every case, it would be difficult to make a film which showed every possibility.

However, Split offers the possibilities of one person's story and shows how he is affected. The identities each offer their own characteristics and McAvoy depicts each alter as an individual but also making it clear that it is not the same actor playing a different part.

In Split, the alters seem to be aware of each other—some working as a group, some alters allowing others to "come into the light" or with only one "awake" at a time. The film also takes time, however, to talk about different possibilities such as having more than one alter working at the same time.

The Plot

Casey Cook is kidnapped along with two friends

Under the genre of "psychological horror-thriller," Split is a standalone sequel to the 2000 film Unbreakable. According to IMDB, the idea for the film came from a true story in which Billy Milligan was the first person with DID to use an insanity defence by reason of the disorder when charged with rape.

Split sees three young girls kidnapped by one of Kevin Wendell Crumb's alters. The girls, Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy), Claire (Haley Lu Richardson);], and Marcia (Jessica Sula) make attempts to escape and Casey tries to work out which alters will be able to help her.

The identities are working with Doctor Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley), a psychiatrist who knows that something is wrong when she receives several urgent requests from one of the alters.

While the three kidnapped girls try to escape, some of Kevin's alters try to suppress the group of alters to whom they refer as the "horde."

The Alters

James McAvoy plays eight "alters" in the film

Eight of the alters are shown in the film. The first two are Dennis and Miss Patricia. These two are behind the kidnapping.

Later, fashionista Barry visits Doctor Fletcher while Casey, Claire, and Marcia meet nine-year-old Hedwig, whom Casey attempts to befriend, later on.

Other alters show themselves via video diaries and a final alter is revealed towards the latter part of the film.

Personal Review

I was hesitant to watch at first as, it seems, a lot of people have been. Perhaps put off by other films about things which don't really represent the things. The kind that makes you angry and you want to argue with every aspect.

Well, Split is not like that at all. Admittedly, there are some parts which I would consider unrealistic but then, that's dramatisation for you. It was well acted, sensitively portrayed, and showed different opinions.

It had me gripped (and that's not an easy feat as I have a habit of falling asleep through films). I had seen it advertised but was wary until a couple of friends reviewed it so thought I would give it a go.

I am glad I did as it is one of the best films I have seen. Not just the excellent portrayal of personality disorder but a thrilling and intriguing film in its own right.