Little Children

Todd Field is a genius director. That’s all there is to it. His 2004 hit In the Bedroom was universally recognized as a terrific film, and Little Children was nothing short of fantastic. The film is based on the book by Tom Perrotta. Read my review of the book here. Field wrote the screenplay, as well as directed.

Sarah (Kate Winslet) is a feminist. A a former member of the intelligentsia who came this close to getting a master’s in English (but quit before writing her dissertation, a telling sign of her character), with a man-ish figure, who has strong opinions on literature and used to avoid shaving her legs. She somehow entered into an obviously loveless marriage to a middle aged man named Richard. Richard (Gregg Edelman) works successfully in advertising by day, and is a porn site aficionado by night. Sarah and Richard have a daughter, Lucy, whom Sarah resents, and she feels like a prisoner in her house decorated by Pottery Barn, stuck in the suburbs. Brad (Patrick Wilson) is an overly handsome stay-at-home dad, studying for the bar (which he’s already failed twice). He knows he won’t pass again (he doesn’t even really want to be a lawyer), but to shut his extremely beautiful, and intelligent wife up (played by Jennifer Connelly), he feigns studying each night and will attempt to pass the test one final time. Being completely selfish, bored, and forced to spend copious amounts of time focusing solely on the entertainment of their children, the two fall into a lurid affair, cheating on their spouses and telling themselves that they make each other happy.

The subject matter will deter many. The explicit love affair is gritty, and realistic. Central acts focus on a pedophile sex-offender (a completely disturbing Jackie Earle Haley who was coaxed out of a thirteen year retirement for the role) who sparks controversy in the town as he’s released from prison and goes to live with his mother (the impeccable Phyllis Somerville). But the real ugliness of the story can be found in the main characters. They’re not bad people, but they let themselves do bad things, convincing themselves that’s it’s romantic, and beautiful. Sarah even pontificates on why Madame Bovary is no longer the pathetic character she seemed to be while Sarah was in grad school, but now sees her as a hero, a feminist, who fights for a better life.

I can’t commend Field enough for his directing savvy. His proudest moment can be found in a scene at the town pool, where sex-offender Ronnie manages to sneak in and ogle the children with his diving mask and snorkel. The tension Field manages to build is tremendous, making even the least involved viewer shift uncomfortably in his seat. He also manages to ask the question everyone wonders but no one will ask out loud: why is it having children makes you a so much less interesting adult?  As mentioned before, the subject matter is without a doubt mature, but investing in this film will pay out ten fold as you’re sucked into this world that could realistically happen in your neighborhood. This was, without a doubt, in the top five films of 2006.


Rottentomatoes: 81%Cream of the Crop: 89%

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4 Responses to “Little Children”
  1. Jessica says:

    I can’t believe it’s been two years since this movie came out. I really enjoyed this book, and it sounds like the movie is just as good.

  2. Care says:

    I’ve been putting this one off but I’ll get to it eventually. Good review.

  3. Blake says:

    Excellent review. You see the depth of movies many can’t.

  4. magicman says:

    I agree with Blake.

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