The Spanish Gardener and
THE SIXTH S ENSE, an American ﬁlm of 1999 from an Indian director, M. Night Shyamalan, with an all-American star (Bruce Willis), seems a very long way from British cinema of the 1950s. 1 But the boy in this ﬁlm (Haley Joel Osment) seems almost a revenant from the British post-war era, with his lack of teenage quality, his innocence of youth culture and, more importantly, his anguished concern for and with the adult (Willis) whom he befriends. Here there is something of Carol Reed's The Fallen Idol (1948), Anthony Pélissier's The Rocking Horse Winner (1949), Philip Leacock's The Spanish Gardener (1956) and other ﬁlms of the period that centre upon the child/adult relationship or incorporate it as a theme: Anthony Asquith's The Winslow Boy (1948) and The Browning Version (1951), and Philip Leacock's The Kidnappers (1953). Perhaps the template for this type of isolated child is Pip in David Lean's Great Expectations (1946). Anthony Wager as young Pip seems an irrevocably old-fashioned child victim, the Little Father Time of Hardy's Jude the Obscure, as does John Howard Davies asking for more in Lean's Oliver Twist (1948). This sensitive-looking child returns in The Sixth Sense and indeed in another ﬁlm of 1999, Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia.
Neither of the children who feature in these ﬁlms exempliﬁes today's idea of `normal' children in cinema, which is based on a concept of young, tough `kids' that does not show children as people. Stuart Jeffries recently bemoaned the similarities of late 1990s/early 2000 British ﬁlms, including `the spate of sentimental ﬁlms about the travails of small boys in the provinces.' 2 He attributes this to British cinema's desire to play it safe, to____________________