When I was in 8th grade, I was an asshole. As much as that sounds like a confession, I also gained a sense of self-awareness for the first time in 8th grade. I also went through what was the first genuinely bad period of my life, which came from a self-inflicted series of mistakes. And yet, the real thing I remember about that horrible, awful year, aside from reorganizing my life, and getting my shit together, is M. Night Shyamalan’s Split. Marked as a return to form for Shyamalan, Split was maybe my favorite theatrical experience of all time, and when I think back on it, all I can think about it is eighth grade.
I remember January 20th, 2017. I remember the AMC Theater I sat in, weeks after watching Unbreakable for the first time. If you’ll allow me to get personal, the first time I saw Split, I was at a specific crossroads socially. Lacking friends and support, I went to the film with my mother, and I remember that day being absolutely horrible. But Split made me excessively happy with its twist; it’s a wild and excellent performance by James McAvoy and the steady and sharp filmmaking on display from Shyamalan
James McAvoy in Split, photo by John Baer, courtesy of Universal Pictures
Now, I realize I was a little shit in eighth grade. Everyone was, but the reason I’m really talking about that is because Split marked this new period of my life. There was wallowing in self-pity for a long, long period, and then the turnaround. Split marked the beginning of the wallowing, and yet, that’s why Glass also means so much to me. I’ll forever associate the horrible person I used to be with Split, but not in a bad way, because I’m not attempting to erase who I was. I’m just trying to keep moving and become a better person.
Okay, I know how silly this sounds, but it does mean a lot to me. Something good did come out of that period of self-pity, and constant rejection of my issues. I started to mend who I wanted to be as a person, and the summer following Split’s release, I attempted very hard to fix my social standings and just erase who I was from the previous years. My middle school reputation was much worse than my current high school one, and I feel better about myself.
Samuel L Jackson in Glass, photo by Jessica Kourkounis, courtesy of Universal Pictures
Here we are, Saturday, January 19th, 2019. It’s just about two years to the day I saw Split. I saw Glass with my dad. I saw Split with my dad for the second time at an 11:10 screening in the morning two months after it came out. I remember the daily misery I created for myself; the guilt of seeing people who hated me, the constant shitty feeling I felt. I tried to hard to blame anyone else at first. I immediately lashed out against the people who I had pushed away, moving them farther away, insulting them, and permanently souring them on me. And yet, Glass made me finally forgive myself - as odd as that may sound. I had just kept moving past it, regaining friends and growing a semblance of self-awareness in 2017, and being less of a jerk that year.
Glass made me think about who I was on January 20th, 2017. And it made me glad I’m not that person anymore, but I can’t hate who I was then. It doesn’t matter if other people still hate who I was in eighth grade, and still hold that against me. Hating who I was then isn’t healthy, and so Glass made me forgive myself, finally. I’m a different person, and M. Knight is still fucking killing it. I’m sure there are plenty of more powerful readings about mental illness, and the systematic oppression of it, which is the primary theme of Glass, and those articles should be read. I just wanted to share what it meant to me, because Glass is pretty wonderful, and I adored it. I applaud M. Night for making something this strange and still universally enjoyed by mainstream audiences. The direction is sharp, the acting is wonderful, and the script is messy and fascinating. If he keeps making them, I’ll see every movie he puts out until he’s done.