by Manuel Reynoso 1 palm tree out of 4
Written and Directed by M. Night Shyamalan, Starring James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy and Betty Buckley.
Three teenage girls are abducted by Kevin (James McAvoy), an abused suffer of Dissociative Identity Disorder, and are being held in cellar against their will. Claire (Haley Lu Richardson), Marcia (Jessica Sula) and Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) have to work with and against Kevin’s various personalities if they want to make it out alive.
M. Night Shyamalan has struck out repeatedly over the years. While his success was largely built off of the momentum of Sixth Sense, his original works have yet to recapture the world’s imagination since. It’s truly a shame to see Shyamalan take to writing what amounts to nothing more than an exploitation film. However, it’s not a cultural trend or niche genre being exploited, but our nation’s most vulnerable citizens.
We face a mental health crisis here in the United States. Limited resources to combating this problem is only exacerbated by the stigma mental health illnesses carry. So to create a film whose entire theme revolves around the demonization of mental illness is simply abhorrent. Repeatedly the film equates the mentally ill and abused as broken or violent, and as such should be labeled as outcasts. Combined with mediocre writing, questionable cinematography, and lackluster acting, we are left with another failure for M. Night Shyamalan to ruminate over what went wrong.
The poor theme would have been enough for me to disregard this film as terrible alone, but I repeatedly came into question of this film cinematography. Far too often do we see the same shots being recycled in this film. I am far to intimately aware of each actor’s facial features, as we get so many close ups of the actors teary eyed faces. It became clear that this became a crutch to help the director easily convey the tension and desperation each character was feeling. What was even more bizarre was the sporadic use of extremely wide angle shots for some of the conversations. There wasn’t enough to create any sort of theme with their use but enough to make it far too noticeable.
However, the one saving grace has to be the acting talents of James McAvoy. In a film brought down by the mediocre acting of the rest of the cast, James McAvoy was far too talented for such a low brow script. His ability to assume the many different personalities of Kevin really was a remarkable thing to watch, and was likely the only thing I found interesting in this movie. He had great range, and I hope to see him shine in a movie more deserving of his talents.
It’s difficult for me to look past the fact this film is taking us in the wrong direction in regards to mental health awareness and understanding. However, even if I was to look past this, I would still only see a half decent thriller with bad cinematography and mediocre acting. McAvoy’s acting may stand out as the one solid part of this movie, it does not make up for much. M. Night Shyamalan continues to be nothing more than a has-been director to me. The truly sad part of all this is he’s made even worse movies, so really this was pretty par for the course all things considered. PG-13 1H57M.