Malcolm Crowe is a revered psychologist who has just earned an award from the mayor for his efforts with children. On the night that Malcom and his wife Anna are celebrating his triumph, they arrive home to find an intruder in their bathroom. He, Vincent Gray, is one of Malcolm's few failures. After rambling about Malcolm's faults as a psychiatrist, he brandishes a gun, then shoots himself and his doctor. After several months, Malcolm has recovered from his wounds physically but not emotionally. A gulf has developed between him and his wife. The once-loving couple hardly talks and he suspects that she's having an affair. As a means to assuage his guilt, Malcolm begins to work with nine-year old Cole Sear, a boy who shows similar problems to those displayed by Vincent Gray at that age. Malcolm is determined to accomplish for Cole what he couldn't do for his former patient. But the task he has set for himself is not an easy one. Cole sees and hears things that others can't and he's afraid to open up to his mother, Lynn, for fear that she'll think he's a freak. The fact is that Cole can see dead people "all the time".