Ghost story about a doleful little boy who sees dead people all around him and a wobbly child psychologist who tries to help him. It delivers three or four really good scares and a surprise ending that makes you want, or need, to sit through it a second time. The surprise, except for the hero's apparent sharing in it (a big exception), seems pretty fair and square after only one sitting — not quite so much after a second. The first order of business, following a tightly packed prologue, is the bonding of doctor and patient (Bruce Willis has tucked away his smirk in his back pocket, and Haley Joel Osment suffers sympathetically), and the approach to the supernatural is very gradual, so that while the movie evades any charges of crudeness and conventionality, it invites lesser charges of vagueness and lack of focus. The ghostly visitations, once we are let in on them, are handled with a modicum of taste and subtlety, and evoke the maximum frisson with maximum economy. Toni Collette and Olivia Williams; written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. (1999) — Duncan Shepherd
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