Eye For Film >> Movies >> Little Children (2006) Film Review
Reviewed by: Steve Harwood
Todd Field’s second feature; a dark, multi-layered study of thirty-something suburban life is a welcome follow-up to his 2001 debut, In the Bedroom. The screenplay examines the hopes, fears, relationships and idiosyncrasies of a small Massachusetts community, where everyone knows one another, the local kids play in the street and the wind blows silently through the trees, carrying with it the secrets and dreams of each of the town’s inhabitants.
Little Children focuses primarily on the relationship between Sarah (Kate Winslet), an unhappily married mother, and Brad (Patrick Wilson), a stay-at-home dad who spends his evenings ostensibly studying for the bar exam, but instead watches the local skate kids playing in the street and longs for the teenage years he missed out on.
Sarah feels isolated from her husband (Greg Edelman), who locks himself away in the upstairs office and rarely sees her, so she immerses herself in her studies. Though she spends time with her daughter, Sarah doesn’t have much patience for young Lucy’s (Sadie Goldstein) demands, and finds she has little in common with the soccer moms down at the playground. Brad is married to the beautiful and successful Kathy (Jennifer Connelly), but he feels lost and disenchanted; preferring to hang out with his son by day, and his football buddies by night. Sarah and Brad meet and over the course of a long, hot summer, spend more and more time together, eventually embarking on a passionate affair. They dream of being with one another forever, but given their situations, this can surely only ever be a dream.
A second narrative concerns the re-introduction into society of a convicted sex offender, Ronnie, who goes back to live with his mother despite the objections of local parents. The fears and paranoia of the community, fuelled by a fervent poster campaign, culminate in a brilliantly staged scene at the town swimming pool. Jackie Earle Haley’s performance is startling; at once sympathetic and menacing, acutely aware he has something wrong with him, but unable to do a thing about it.
These are just a few of the characters to feature, and Field allows the camera to slowly weave its way through the town, occasionally giving the audience more detail through the musings of a satirical narrator. There are many themes linking each of these individuals and situations together, most notably the relationship between parent and child. How much of our lives are shaped by our parents, and what legacy do we leave for our own children?
Little Children is brimming with superb performances. Kate Winslet’s role is not a showy one, but Sarah’s quiet, determined hunger for change is infinitely believable, and is already winning her plenty of plaudits. Winslet is fast becoming one of the best actresses of her generation, a reputation cemented here with yet another consistently brilliant turn. Patrick Wilson’s portrayal of frustration and immaturity is no less convincing, and Jackie Earle Haley and Noah Emmerich - as a retired cop - are excellent too. Jennifer Connelly’s character is perhaps the least interesting, but even Kathy displays the selfish, childlike qualities found in many of the other adults. It should come as no surprise that the “little children” of the title isn’t just referring to the town’s kids.
This is a powerful and fascinating film that refuses to tie up all the loose ends, leaving you deep in thought long after you leave the cinema.Reviewed on: 01 Nov 2006