The Sixth Sense wasn’t M. Night Shymalan’s feature debut, but it was the film that put his name on the map after he made the little-seen Praying with Anger and Wide Awake. Shyamalan and leading man Bruce Willis followed up their hit supernatural drama by deconstructing comic book archetypes in Unbreakable – now considered by many to be Shyamalan’s finest movie – and the pair have come close to collaborating for a third time in the past, but it’s just not been in the stars – until now, possibly.
Shyamalan and Willis are in negotiations to reunite on Labor of Love, based on a script that Shyamalan sold to 20th Century Fox all the way back in 1993 – well before the former had become famous (and, now, infamous) – though it never saw the light of day, in part because Shyamlan wouldn’t let the film move forward unless he was directing.
Here is how Deadline summarizes the unrealized screenplay (which, if it gets made at last, will have an all the more appropriate title):
In Labor Of Love, Willis will play a Philadelphia book store owner who loses the love of his life in a tragic accident. Never big on words, he becomes haunted by the notion that he never properly told his wife how much he loved her. Since she once asked if he would walk across the country for her, he decides to show her posthumously just how much he did love her. That trek starts from Philadelphia to Pacifica, CA, which was her favorite place.
Interestingly, as Deadline points out in the same article, the fundamental premise for Labor of Love lends itself to a movie that’s pretty much a work of straight-forward (if dramatized) realism – similar to Shymalan’s first two feature-length directorial efforts – in contrast to the storyteller’s output from the last fifteen years, which has become increasingly genre-oriented, be it fantasy (The Last Airbender), ecological horror (The Happening) or futuristic science fiction (After Earth).
Part of the reason that I’ve been so critical of Shymalan’s recent work (as have many others) is because his films have continued to feel personal and meaningful; yet, at the same time, Shyamalan is his own worst enemy, when he constructs flimsy stories – which tend to only really serve as vehicles for his soapbox preaching – and makes clunky attempts at big-budget spectacle, when his strength is the simpler, yet poetic, mise-en-scene of his films released before the past decade.
That said, moving back towards his earlier days – when his focus was more on pure storytelling – with Labor of Love sounds like a good move for Shyamalan. Likewise, Willis’ growing disinterest in the action genre has become increasingly obvious of late (see: his turns in A Good Day to Die Hard and G.I. Joe: Retaliation), but this project seems a nice chance for Willis to recharge his own strained batteries; and thus, flex his underused (one might also argue, under-appreciated) dramatic chops.
We’ll strive to keep you posted on Labor of Love‘s development as more information is made available.