Main cast: Bruce Willis (Malcolm Crowe), Haley Joel Osment (Cole Sear), and Toni Collette (Lynn Sear)
Director: M Night Shyamalan
Malcolm Crowe is a child psychologist that once won an award but was ultimately shot by a patient he had unwittingly misdiagnosed. A year later, he is a man driven to make amends for having destroyed one person’s life. A boy, Cole Sears, exhibit the same symptoms of trauma as the other patient, and Malcolm is determined to help him. Only Cole’s secret is much more complicated that Malcolm had thought.
Watching The Sixth Sense, I am starting to believe that Bruce Willis is an underrated romantic hero. He has this vulnerable look in his face that bestows in him a earthy feel. Here, Malcolm is a kind, sensitive man with a way with children. I must admit my own father was always absent during my childhood, so I guess Malcolm’s appeal to me also has some personal wistful quality in it. I never can resist a man good with kids. Malcolm is indeed wonderful with Cole. He is never condescending, quietly gentle, treating Cole with the sensitivity and respect any kid deserves.
But the true gem of The Sixth Sense is Haley Joel Osment. His teary, truly haunted look tore at my maternal instincts. I so dearly wanted to hug him to my bosom and tell him, “There, there, everything’s okay now dear.” His timid, trembling voice when he’s terrified is really painful to my eyes, hence it brings a warm glow to see him slowly gaining confidence under Malcolm’s gentle guidance.
Malcolm and Cole have wonderful screen chemistry. Malcolm never condescends, Cole never acts petulant. There’s a wonderful scene where Malcolm tries to entice Cole into sitting down opposite him for a session via a faux mind-reading game. This scene defines the lines between these two, and sparks the seed of trust in Cole. Here, after all, is a man who will try and probably can understand him. There’s also a telling scene with Cole mocking Malcolm’s admittedly ridiculous magic trick, only to repeat it himself in an attempt to win some friends in a party. This dear, poor, lonely boy finds a father figure in Malcolm.
Mr Osment has the hardest task in this movie – to speak Cole’s lines that are sometimes corny, sometimes effective, all older than his years – and he carries it off superbly. “Mother, what are you thinking?” he asks his mother Lynn tentatively, hesitatingly, after he’d told her at last his secret. “Are you thinking I’m a freak?” His face, so raw with vulnerability… oh my, pass me the third box of tissues please.
And it’s nice to see Toni Collette in a non-frumpy, dowdy odd duck role. Her character Lynn, Cole’s mother, is realistic. A tired single mother who is bewildered and terrified at the inexplicable things happening to her only son, Lynn yet manages to remain patient and treats Cole lovingly and gently. Her scenes with Cole are almost as strong as those of Cole and Malcolm. Lynn is a character that is vulnerable yet so strong at the same time that she manages to rise above cliches and be truly memorable.
I admit the basic plot of The Sixth Sense is nothing new, and that the director, also the scriptwriter, sometimes stretch the thin plot thin to fit the two hour movie. Yet he has three trump cards in his main characters, and this ultimately makes the movie a big success to me. I adore The Sixth Sense – no, I love the movie. Not as a ghost or psychological thriller, but a gentle, non-condescending movie about a scared boy’s relationships with his mother and mentor. This movie is definitely one of my favorite, maybe for this year, maybe for a long time to come.