The big question with Split is not so much how can James McAvoy play 23 different characters in one film, but whether the film can continue the career resurrection of director M Night Shyamalan. After impressing everyone with early films such as The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs, the King of the Twist’s reputation took a hit with misfires like The Village and Lady In The Water, after which there were a string of out-and-out turkeys from which it looked like he would never recover – The Happening, The Last Airbender and After Earth. But recover he did with last year’s surprise hits The Visit and the TV show Wayward Pines. And one thing’s certain with Split – he’s not playing things safe, and for that alone he should be applauded. The film is a thriller that follows Kevin (McAvoy) a man with a very unusual series of multiple personalities. One of them abducts three teenage girls including Morgan and The Witch’s Anya Taylor-Joy. As the three struggle to escape, it becomes clear that something awful is growing in Kevin’s mind…
McAvoy plays every single one of Kevin’s personalities and the changes in his voice, posture and delivery are astonishing. We won’t spoil the film’s big reveals, and there’s more than one of those, but here’s a list of the people we see him play:
- Kevin Wendell Crumb – the original personality. Polite, gentle and horrified by what the others do.
- Dennis – its implied Dennis was the first personality to form. Dennis is very serious, fiercely protective of Kevin, suffers from OCD and has a deeply repressed but virulent libido. He’s the one who abducts the girls.
- Hedwig – a nine year-old boy who loves Kanye West, dancing in his room and chatting. He desperately wants to be taken seriously by the others.
- Patricia – the cross-dressing matriarch. Arch, precise and cold.
- Barry – the ‘lead’ personality and the one who spends much of his time in control. Barry is sweet, gentle and in much more trouble than he knows…
- Orwell – a tweedy scholar who tries to analyse problems to death rather than solve them.
- Jade – a kind, diabetic teenage girl
These are the personalities we meet but Kevin has many others, including:
- Mary Reynolds
- Mr Pritchard
Though Kevin (James McAvoy) has evidenced 23 personalities to his trusted psychiatrist, Dr Fletcher (Betty Buckley), there remains one still submerged who is set to materialise and dominate all the others. Compelled to abduct three teenage girls led by the wilful, observant Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy – The Witch), Kevin reaches a war for survival among all of those contained within him, as well as everyone around him, as the walls between his compartments shatter apart.
For Split, Shyamalan and Blum reassemble their core team from The Visit.