The Sixth Sense (1999) is categorized as a Drama/Mystery/Thriller. What saves this from being only a Mystery/Thriller and elevates it to a Drama movie is the character development and the intricate problems that have to be reckoned with and solved. The definition of the Drama genre, a major genre category, is that a drama must be serious, realistic, plot-driven, with intense character development. So even though The Sixth Sense is a Mystery/Thriller dealing in the supernatural and horrific, it is the conflicts and the changes in the lives of the leading characters that drive the film forward.
Malcolm Crowe is a child psychologist with a successful practice who is unexpectedly visited one night by an ex-patient, now grown up, who claims Crowe failed him, this on the very night that Crowe is presented an award for his distinguished career. Tragedy follows upon this visit—during which Crowe is shot in the stomach—for all three, the visitor, Crowe and his wife.
Several months later, an opportunity to rectify the past presents itself when a nine-year-old boy named Cole seeks help for similar symptoms. Both the midnight visitor and Cole see dead people. These dead people apparently don’t know they are dead. Of course this extrasensory vision makes Cole a freak at school and certainly unsettles Cole along with distressing Cole’s mother. Crowe accepts the redemptive opportunity to aid Cole—redemptive for Crowe and Cole and maybe in some way for his first patient—and begins to spend considerable time with Cole.
Crowe at first thinks as he did in the unfortunate earlier case: the boys see hallucinations. As evidence and enlightenment pile up and as Crowe’s wife seems more and more disturb at the time Crowe spends away from home while working with Cole, Crowe is forced to consider other explanations for Cole’s difficulties.
Nominated for several dozen awards including six Academy Awards, The Sixth Sense is a filmatic success and the cast is flawless. Bruce Willis plays Dr. Malcolm Crowe and Haley Joel Osment plays Cole Sear. Lynn Sear, Cole’s mother, is played by Toni Colette and Olivia Williams (An Education (2009)) is Anna Crowe, Malcolm Crowe’s wife. With a couple of Emmy Awards for his early TV work in “Moonlighting” with Cybil Shepherd, Willis has gained a number of other prestigious nominations throughout his career, and The Sixth Sense may have given him one of his finest roles. Before co-starring with Willis, Osment had already compiled a long list of credits including Forest Gump (1994) (as Forest Gump Jr.).
Toni Colette (About a Boy (2002), Little Miss Sunshine (2006), United States of Tara (2009)) as always brings realism and sincerity to her role as Cole’s mother and mixes it with the heartwarming efforts of a loving mother trying to help her troubled son. Olivia Williams’s role is crucial to the mystery element in The Sixth Sense as well as to the undercurrent of marital romance that is integral to the dramatic character development. Since the outcome of the film is always a shocking surprise to first-time viewers, it must be concluded that Williams, then a relative new comer, gave an excellent performance.
The Sixth Sense is rated PG-13 and deserves every ounce of that rating—nightmares abound where viewing age and maturity are not carefully monitored by loving care-giving adults. Better for young people to wait a few years to watch this excellent film and really enjoy it, than to watch it too soon and be too overwhelmed by it.
The Sixth Sense (1999)
M. Night Shyamalan – Director
M. Night Shyamalan – Screenplay writer
Bruce Willis – Dr. Malcolm Crowe
Haley Joel Osment – Cole Sear
Toni Colette - :Lynn Sear
Olivia Williams – Anna Crowe
The Sixth Sense DVD was reviewed from the Reviewer's private collection.