This is a film about a man with a rare form of schizophrenia, known as multiple personality disorder (MPD) or dissociative identity disorder (DID). People who suffer from this illness commonly refer to themselves by different names depending on which personality has control. In most cases one personality takes over the others are suppressed, but sometimes two can be active at the same time and communicate with one another. The film presents an even rarer case of personalities accompanied by different personal traits, i.e. one of the personalities is diabetic while the others aren't.
James McAvoy plays a man called Kevin (his birth name) with 23 personalities who have been living relatively peacefully for years. He/they have been visiting a psychiatrist who has been treating the individual personalities for years. The dominant personality is Barry, a polite and articulate personality, but a more aggressive personality called Dennis has been struggling to take over, with the help of another personality called Patricia.
The film begins with Dennis kidnapping three 16-year-old girls and locking them in a basement. He tells them that he needs them for the arrival of someone or something called the Beast. While trapped the girls meet the other personalities and try to get help from some of them, in particular Hedwig, a nine-year-old boy.
I've always enjoyed watching James McAvoy as an actor, but I've considered him to be one-sided. He always plays a likeable, impishly smiling character. In "Split" he finally has a chance to show what he can do. The transitions from one personality to another are sometimes shown by changes in clothing, but mostly they're shown by different facial expressions and mannerisms. James McAvoy delivers the performance of a lifetime.
The film is also a return to form for the writer/director M. Night Shyamalan. His first few films, in the 1990's and early 2000's, were acknowledged as masterpieces, but his films over the last 10 years have been less favourably received. "Split" is his best film in a long time. It also has a tie-in to one of his previous films, but I'll let you discover which one for yourself.
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