5. Cole Helps Kyra
After Cole encounters the ghost of a girl who died from an unknown illness, Kyra Collins (Mischa Barton), he and Malcolm attend her funeral where they overhear guests saying that her sister is becoming ill as well. They enter Kyra’s bedroom, where her ghost grabs Cole’s leg from under the bed and gives him a box. He then delivers the box to her father (Greg Wood), who finds a VHS tape inside. The video exposes that her mother (Angelica Page) purposefully made Kyra ill by mixing a toxic substance into her food. Mr Collins tearfully accuses his wife of killing their daughter. Though deeply tragic, this moment gives Kyra closure and saves her sister from the same fate.
In this scene, Shyamalan carefully crafts Mr Collins’ revelation through editing as we learn about Kyra’s murder at the same time as the character. The sequence cuts between straight-on, symmetrical shots of the television screen and her father’s reaction—at first, tear-filled smiles as he sees his late daughter, then the horror of the sinking realisation that his wife is to blame for her death, the camera inching closer and closer to his face. This moment, while devastating, is a major turning point for Cole in accepting his responsibility to bring these ghosts peace.
4. Malcolm’s Old Therapy Tapes
When Cole first confesses that he sees ghosts, Malcolm is not convinced. Shortly after, Malcolm sits in his office at home and thinks about what Vincent said before his former patient shot him: ‘Do you know why you’re afraid when you’re alone? I do, I do.’ He listens to Vincent’s old therapy tapes from when he was about Cole’s age, noting behavioural similarities. In one recording, Dr Crowe leaves the session to take a call and Vincent is left alone in the room. In the present, Malcolm then hears a faint voice and slowly turns up the volume until he hears someone speaking Spanish, revealing that Vincent must have seen ghosts too.
Willis gives a compelling performance as a long take close-up on his face shows his changing expression from sceptical curiosity to shock. Similar to Mr Collins’ reaction to Kyra’s videotape, we learn this information through a recording at the exact moment the character does, implying themes of the media as a source of truth throughout the film. This moment is another important turning point, this time for Malcolm, as he finally believes Cole’s secret and can therefore help him like he couldn’t help Vincent.
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3. Cole Is Ready to Communicate
Throughout the film, Lynn worries that she cannot figure out what is wrong with her son. Near the end of the movie, Cole is ready to tell her his secret.
As they sit in traffic behind a car accident, he explains that a woman died in the collision. When his mother asks how he knows this, he replies that she is standing beside his window. A ghost appears behind him, though Lynn does not see her. At first, Lynn is scared by his revelation, but when he passes on a message from her deceased mother, she is convinced that he is telling the truth.
This is a moving moment that leads to character growth and resolution, healing their strained mother-son relationship as Lynn now knows that she does not have to worry about him and he recognises that he can rely on her for support. Importantly, this is one of the first times that there is neither jump-scare editing nor an eerie score accompanying the ghost reveal. This indicates that they are no longer meant to scare Cole or us anymore. This tender moment also shows the power of his gift since he brings his mother real comfort and closure.