Two worlds of what if

Yael Shavitt’s ‘Split’ is available to stream on Amazon Prime

2 minute read
How often do you wonder, what if? Yael Shavitt as Sam in ‘Split.’ (Image courtesy of Split the Series.)
How often do you wonder, what if? Yael Shavitt as Sam in ‘Split.’ (Image courtesy of Split the Series.)

As I continue to consume copious amounts of TV and movies in quarantine, I am always on the lookout for content that stands out among the unquantifiable array of options. Split, a new TV series created by and starring Israeli-born filmmaker Yael Shavitt, distinguishes itself from many others by offering six 10-minute episodes. The multifaceted Shavitt also wrote and edited the series, as well as spearheading an all-woman and gender-nonconforming production team and on-set crew. While the wholesome and comforting messages of the series leave you with the feeling of a warm hug, it is not enough to forgive the generic script or cast of caricaturelike characters, in a format that potentially hinders the story.

After the audition

The series follows two different paths for Sammy, an aspiring actor, 12 years after a pivotal audition for an arts high school. In one life she is Sam, an actor with a promising career who is in a rocky relationship with her girlfriend Emma; and in the other life, she is Samantha, a timid assistant director stuck in a stale relationship with aloof boyfriend Matthew.

These intriguing bite-sized episodes reminded me of the French theater concept known as tréteau or “trestle.” Developed by prominent stage actor and educator Jacques Lecoq, it is the idea of telling big stories in a small space. Ideally, this constrained structure facilitates imaginative and economic ways of storytelling. Split efficiently uses scoring, a small ensemble, and the focus on key themes to fit a short timeframe. As is the case with sci-fi subgenres, the series is left to audience interpretation. However, here, this Butterfly Effect-inspired concept ultimately feels squeezed into 50 minutes, leaving the narrative, character objectives, and elements of the world reduced to a series of trite moments.

An essential reminder

Shavitt is charming and endearing as two versions of the same person, with a subtle and convincing performance. However, the supporting characters are carbon copies of those we have seen before: the gay best friend, the cute bookstore girl, the airheaded boyfriend, and the uplifting teacher make nearly every moment formulaic.

These wholesome themes of Split offer comfort as we continue living in a global pandemic. With abundant uncertainty ahead of us, I often find my mind wandering through what if and what could have been, my brain’s desperate attempt to feel control in an uncontrollable situation. Split is a gentle reminder that there will be roadblocks and complications no matter the route you take; what is essential to remember is that you are enough just as you are, and that is a mantra worth repeating.

Image description: A still from the TV series Split. Actor Yael Shavitt is standing in a store with two large bottles of beer cradled in her arm. She pauses at a refrigerated case with a thoughtful expression, her hand on the handle. The glass of the case has her reflection. She has long black hair and wears a blue shirt.

What, When, Where

Split is available to watch on Amazon Prime.

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