Film Review by Kirsty Leckie-Palmer | 17 May 2017
Film title: Split
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula, Brad William Henke
Release date: 5 Jun
Certificate: 15

Split, the latest from The Sixth Sense director M. Night Shyamalan, has as many fractured identities as its main character

Dissociative identity disorder is a fascinating condition, in which a person develops one or more additional identities, often compartmentalised and entirely distinctive. It’s proven fertile territory for screenwriters; Psycho, Fight Club and Secret Window are all indebted to DID for their signature twists.

Strange, then, that it’s central to a film without a twist from notorious plot-scrambler M Night Shyamalan. In Split, teenagers Casey (Taylor-Joy), Claire (Richardson) and Marcia (Sula) are kidnapped by Kevin Wendell Crumb (McAvoy) and spirited away to his underground lair.

Soon, Crumb is serving up a 23-course personality buffet to his terrified captives, flipping between OCD janitor Dennis, prim English governess Patricia and lisping nine-year-old Hedwig. Casey determines that the key to their escape will be in engaging Crumb, learning his personalities and using them to defeat him.

But any initial feelings of tension swiftly dissipate when we encounter Crumb’s analyst Karen Fletcher (Buckley), who conclusively excises any suspense from proceedings in her many explanatory appearances. From here on in, a fascinating concept is rendered facet-less and Split fails to deliver on the lashings of foreboding in its opening scenes.

True, McAvoy rises to the challenge with chameleonic eagerness. It’s a dream role: the opportunity to be villain, hero and victim. But the personalities feel unexplained and often unwarranted. Split shifts identities as many times as its main character. It’s not scary enough to be a horror; nor coherent enough for a thriller. It lacks the empathy of a sincere character study, and fails to find a convincing protagonist to anchor its flurry of perspectives. By the final frame, when the film’s true personality is revealed, we’re just too disoriented to care.


Thin on the ground. It would have been fascinating to know how McAvoy researched the parts or why this particular roll call of personas was developed. Instead, there’s a spattering of deleted scenes and a couple of brief interviews in which cast and crew commend each other for their contribution. 

Released by Universal on DVD and Blu-ray