Directed by: Todd Field
Premise: The film is a portrayal of a community and the families that live within it. Two married friends (Kate Winslet and Patrick Wilson) begin an affair and contemplate leaving their families. At the same time a sex offender (Jackie Earle Haley) moves into the neighborhood and causes an uproar among the residents.
What Works: Little Children is the kind of film that that is able to successfully navigate between telling intimate stories and then contextualizes those interpersonal narratives within a larger environment. The affair between Sarah (Wislet) and Brad (Wilson) has an authenticity to it beyond what most of these kinds of stories accomplish and although the romance follows a fairly predictable plotline, it is very well done. If Sarah and Brad’s story were isolated, Little Children might remain a fairly conventional romantic tragedy, but the context of the film gives it its richness. The supporting story of Ronny (Haley), a recently released sex offender, pulls and twists at our sympathies and adds an unstable element to the film that provides a sense of danger and foreboding. In contrast is the story of Larry (Noah Emmerich), a neighborhood watchman with a dark past who pursues Ronny. Between the two of them the sense of morality and righteousness shifts back and forth, and the film does not take one side or the other, but makes the distinction blurred. With all of these stories working together, Little Children renders the complicated ways sexuality shapes relationships for better and for worse.
What Doesn’t: The film includes narration early on that is intended to be ironic and funny (it sounds like a documentary voice on National Geographic), and while it does set up the story with a few laughs, it also gets a bit obnoxious in places.
Bottom Line: Little Children is an intelligent film about romantic dreams versus the realities of suburban and married life. It is able to achieve a substantial texture. Despite a few shortcomings in the storytelling, the substance of the story is rewarding.
Episode: #149 (July 22, 2007)