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With obvious gifts for directing children creating atmospheric stories and working honestly with deeply felt themes about the role of the dead in our lives writer-director M Night Shyamalan has followed up last years touching Wide Awake with an even better film about a boy in the grip of loss and fear Bruce Willis stars as child psychologist Malcolm Crowe who is shot by a former patient who claims Crowe did nothing to alleviate his supernatural childhood terrors Months later Crowe is a changed man isolated remote from his wife Olivia Williams and quietly bent on helping another boy named Cole Haley Joel Osment who seems to be undergoing similar traumas to that of the gun-wielding assailant For most of the film young Cole seems like a sharp but terribly frightened child his slight frame a natural metaphor for an inability to cope with some awful invisible force in his life He tells Crowe he has learned to deflect the worries of his single mother Toni Collette by drawing happy pictures instead of the horrifying ones he actually sees and he has even made a deal with a local bully to pretend to be his friend Crowe sees through Coles facade but it takes a long time before the boy reveals whats ailing him he has an unwanted gift for seeing the dead particularly those who have died violent unjust deaths and seem to be seeking him out While The Blair Witch Project is more primal in its suggestive scares The Sixth Sense has an old-fashioned Gothic touch that Shyamalan uses with effective economy For most of the films running time all the director really needs to do is frame certain shots with an airy anticipation and throw in a few evocative details chilled breath leaves blowing along a street the hint of a spectre rushing past a doorframe Interestingly Cole often seeks refuge in a makeshift tent in his room which
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