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Accidental Heroes, Ordinary Tragedies

Unbreakable
Produced by Touchstone and Blinding Edge Pictures
Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Released by Buena Vista Pictures

You Can Count on Me
Produced by Cappa Production and The Shooting Gallery
Written and Directed by Ken Lonergan
Released by Paramount Classics

Last year, M. Night Shyamalan performed a minor miracle: flouting Hollywood's policy giving the public what it's supposed to want, he found a wav to tell a morally complex tale and, at the same time, make it a huge popular success. Using—at times strategically bending—the conventions of the traditional ghost story he gave us The Sixth Sense, an uncommonly honest narrative about a boy and a man helping one another face their mortal losses. He even dared to invoke the austere vision of classical tragedy that counsels us to come to terms with our mortal condition by choosing to accept it. Only this, the Greeks believed, can release us from death's terrors. Shyamalan further suggested that such acceptance can be more than stoic: It can be Christian as well, for it enables us to recognize that the best way to deal with our own losses is to help others face theirs.

Executives in our popular-entertainment industry generally deem such notions insufficiently sunny. Shyamalan broke their one commandment—"Thou shalt not upset...

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