Movie Review – Little Children (2006)
by RISHI AGRAWAL
In our normal lives, our obsessions toy with us. Everyone has fleeting thoughts, which, if acted upon, would push us outside the bounds of what society finds acceptable. Maybe following those desires would be detrimental, but maybe it could be a release from our unhappy lives. Those fleeting thoughts may claw at us, infect our brain and turn into obsessions, neuroses. Then, we are faced with a choice: whether to give in to those obsessions or push them out of the way like cobwebs, coating our fingers with sticky residue.
It is this very struggle that inflicts the characters in Todd Field’s (In the Bedroom) new film, Little Children. In suburban Massachusetts, Sarah Pierce (Kate Winslet) is a former graduate student who never finished her dissertation. She lives with her husband (Gregg Edelman) and her young daughter (Sadie Goldstein) but cannot shake a growing feeling of unrest. It does not seem like full-fledged depression or ennui to me, but just a general sense of dissatisfaction that we can all relate to. Her life takes a turn for the better when she meets a young father, Brad Adamson (Patrick Wilson) on the playground. Brad has finished law school and has failed the bar exam twice. Instead of studying, he prefers to watch the teenagers go skateboarding. He has a beautiful wife (Jennifer Connelly) but feels no connection to her.
Sarah and Brad become friends, as they take their children to playgrounds and pools. The question of the film becomes whether they should give into the growing sexual tension between them or whether they should remain friends for the sake of their spouses and children.
One thing the film does particularly well is briefly enter the lives of supporting characters. Though the focus of the film remains on Sarah and Brad, we learn a little bit about many of the inhabitants of this town. Everyone in the town has their own set of desires, most of them more unusual than a potential love affair. These obsessions are sometimes destructive and sometimes amusing, but none of them seem like distractions from the main plot.
The voice-over is especially notable in this film. I think it is difficult to have a narrator in a film without being pretentious, especially when the narrator is not one of the characters in the film. However, the voice-over tends to be witty and insightful, and maintains an appropriate tone throughout the film. As we are dealing with some characters cursorily, the voice-over provides necessary exposition.
Some people might be turned off by the ending to the film, which may seem a bit melodramatic. I thought the ending of the film was well-done. Without giving anything away, I think that the ending showed the consequences of what happens when the characters were no longer content to straddle the line between succumbing to their fantasies and fighting against them. The characters, at that point, made their choices, for better or for worse.
In a final note, I should mention Jackie Earle Haley’s performance in this movie as brilliant. Haley was a former child star, best known for The Bad News Bears and Breaking Away. He had not acted in a movie since 1993 and makes his return to the screen in 2006 with two films: Little Children and All the King’s Men. To reveal the nature of Haley’s character would be too much of a spoiler, and I leave it to the viewers to discover it for themselves.