Recently I analysed both Split (2016) and The Book of Henry (2017), two movies in which girls in the United States are sexually abused by men. In both movies an older woman attempts to save the girl(s)--Betty Buckley in the case of the former and Naomi Watts in the latter. I propose to compare their endings. They differ significantly. If you do not want the endings spoiled you should stop reading now.
At the end of Split the captive girls are all murdered, except for one, as is the older woman who tries to help them. The rapist/murderer, played by James McAvoy, goes unpunished, as does the sexually abusive uncle who is the surviving girl's legal guardian. It is a grim and depressing ending. At the end of The Book of Henry the sexually abused girl goes to live with the kind woman who tried to save her, and her sexually abusive stepfather commits suicide when the police arrive at his house to arrest him. Here the ending is uplifting and hopeful. Split ends with the sexual abuse survivor confronted to a nightmare that is not yet over. The Book of Henry ends with the sexual abuse survivor safe and cared for by a loving surrogate mother.
Split made over US$278 million at the worldwide box office, and I hope I never have to sit through it again. The Book of Henry made US$4 million at the worldwide box office, and I have watched it twice. My son is interested in watching it, so I may watch it again with him.
How filmmakers choose to treat women's and girls' murderers and rapists at the end of their movies is telling. The girl's final situation is also significant. In Hollywood, happy ending land, it is curious when filmmakers choose to show the rapist/murderer triumphing instead of the abused girl. It raises all kinds of questions, mostly about the filmmakers. In film women have triumphed over aliens (Alien, Aliens), dinosaurs (Jurassic World), robots (Terminator 2), sharks (The Shallows) and even ex-husbands (The First Wives Club). In the second decade of the 21st century it is shocking when women and girls are shown utterly beaten by their male rapist/murderer. A person has to ask herself: why didn't the filmmaker want to show the woman and girls triumph?
© 2018 Alline Cormier
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