Friday, January 12, 2007

Little Children

Movie name: Little Children
Year of release: 2006
Director: Todd Field
Stars: Kate Winslet, Patrick Wilson, Jennifer Connelly, Noah Emmerich, Jackie Earle Haley, Gregg Edelman, Trini Alvarado, Raymond J. Barry
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 8

After “In the Bedroom”, Todd Field reunites with Tom Perrota, author of “Election” (that showcased a great performance from Reese Witherspoon) to create a delicate film about young adults who live a sheltered life and who refuse to grow and see the life and responsibilities that they have.

Todd Field who made a splash with the delicate drama “In the Bedroom” in 2001, again showcases his sensitivity towards small dramas with “Little Children”. The film follows the lives of a group of young adults, focusing on two couples in particular, namely the Pierces and the Adamsons. The film also focuses its’ attention on three peripheral characters, the former policeman Larry Hedges, the convicted child abuser Ronal McGorvey and his mother.
The film starts with the introduction of Sarah Pierce, a young mother whose behavior and independence differentiates and sets her apart from all the other young mothers from the neighborhood. The stay-at-home mothers take their children to the park, every morning, and have a set of quietly assumed routines that Sarah just can’t abide or be a part of. Disturbing this balance comes Brad Adamson, “the Prom King”, a stay-at-home father who is in reality a lawyer studying to take his bar exam. Brad is wrestling with the fact that he doesn’t want to study for an exam in which he has failed previously. His wife, Kathy in the meantime is trying to balance the finances of the house and keep everything in control. Brad and Sarah start a seemingly inoffensive friendship that slowly evolves to an affair. Simultaneously to these events, Ronal McGorvey a convicted child molester makes his way back to this small nucleus of relationships.
Todd Field starts by showing us Kate Winslet’s Sarah, a young mother who’s trying to catch a glimpse of how her life is supposed to be. Sarah meets Brad on the park, and on an impulse, on a challenge, ends up kissing him. Her husband, Richard is a corporate executive, who has found Internet porn, and who masturbates frequently to it. Patrick Wilson’s Brad is the handsome young father, whose professional life is on hold until he passes his bar exam. His wife Kathy, played by Jennifer Connelly, is a documentary producer who’s trying to maintain the expenses of the household under control. Brad is consciously sabotaging his next attempt to take the bar exam – every night he should be studying, he ends up watching young kids on their skateboards. And after meeting Larry Hedges, he becomes involved in playing football with a group of police officers. The young adults of this film are all displayed in a “stand by” mode – they are waiting to see what life will present to them. Sarah ends up playing the role of a modern Madam Bovary, a book that she indicates in the film is ultimately feminist, because the woman in it, even though she can’t make a choice, rebels against her fate. Sarah is desperately trying to rebel against a life to which she has settled and that does not present anything in common with her ambitions. Brad on the other hand can’t connect emotionally with his wife – though beautiful she is distant and unreachable for him, something that his situation of “stay-at-home” dad accentuates. These two people trying to find some meaning come together, and start an affair that ultimately both know, will lead nowhere. It’ merely something that brings up some spark, and that forces them to realize where they are and which path they want to lead.
All the actors do really well in the film, starting with Kate Winslet who excels in her performance. She makes Sarah a vulnerable and yet impulsive woman, someone who’s trying to understand how her life ended up in this particular stage. Her “hunger” becomes palpable as she slowly becomes more entangled with what Brad allows her to experience. Patrick Wilson continues to show his versatility and range. After his performance in Angels in America, his character Brad, is a man trying to put a break in his responsibilities. He’s just delaying the inevitability of his passing to the next stage of his life. Jennifer Connelly and Noah Emmerich both create indelible characters, but Jackie Earle Haley and his portrayal of Ronal McGorvey is truly unforgettable. A former child star, Haley creates a man that can’t be reduced to the epitaph of pedophile – his relationship with his mother is heartbreaking.
Todd Field has managed to create a great film, one where the delicate relationships that are established between the characters, speak clearly about who they are, and what they want from their lives. It’s a film that also showcases a beautiful photography and nuanced soundtrack. See it as soon as possible.