Sarah Pierce (Kate Winslet) is unhappily married to Richard (Gregg Edelman), who gets his kicks from internet porn sites. One day at the park with their three year old daughter Lucy (Sadie Goldstein), Sarah meets Brad Adamson (Patrick Wilson), who is looking after his young son Aaron (Ty Simpkins). But there is tension in the neighbourhood, as convicted paedophile Ronald James McGorvey (Jackie Earle Haley) has just been released from gaol and is living locally with his mother May (Phyllis Somerville). Ex cop Larry Hedges (Noah Emmerich) can hardly contain his anger and begins to harass him. Meanwhile, Sarah and Brad begin a relationship.
Review by Louise Keller:
Todd Field's Little Children is an intense and complex story that is more about damaged lives and relationships than it is about children. With its themes of paedophilia, adultery and deception, this adaptation of Tom Perrotta's novel hones in on the lives of some troubled individuals living in the suburbs of Middle America. Like Field's debut feature In The Bedroom, the focus is on the emotions of the characters who feel angry, lost, lonely and worthless.
The film begins and ends with a voice over narration, which initially distances, but allows the tone of the novel to be felt and heard. The arrival of newly released convicted paedophile Ronald James McGorvey (Jackie Earle Haley) is an unwelcome shock to the close knit community who has no qualms about making its feelings known. Tension builds as his mug shot is plastered everywhere, and when he finally makes an appearance at the local swimming pool, in which the neighbourhood's children are splashing and swimming, panic breaks out. We almost feel sorry for Ronnie, as he climbs out of the pool pasty-faced, wearing goggles and flippers, looking very much like a freak (I'm only trying to cool off,' he says). It is at the swimming pool that Kate Winslet's unhappily married Sarah Pierce solidifies her relationship with house husband Brad Adamson (Patrick Wilson), while they are minding their respective children.
Winslet gives a profoundly vulnerable performance as a woman who hungers for an alternative, while Wilson, who charmed us as Ralph in Phantom of the Opera, is convincingly confused as the lawyer who cannot pass the bar exam, or find his direction in life. Jennifer Connelly as Brad's stifling glamour wife brings gravitas and the dinner scene when the two couples finally meet face to face, is explosive. That is when idle conversation, casual glances and feminine intuition kick in. Haley is unforgettable as the tragic Ronnie, whose elderly mother May (Phyllis Somerville) offers some of the most poignant moments while Noah Emmerich's Larry Hedges, living with the burden of his own secret past, cannot control himself, with tragic results.
Like In the Bedroom, lives are flung out of control. The complexity of the relationships is meticulously portrayed, although at times overly earnest. Nonetheless, it's a powerful piece of cinema and one that reverberates and impacts by its themes.
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LITTLE CHILDREN (MA)
CAST: Kate Winslet, Patrick Wilson, Jennifer Connelly, Gregg Edelman, Sadie Goldstein, Ty Simpkins, Noah Emmerich, Jackie Earle Haley, Phyllis Somerville, Raymond J. Barry, Helen Carey
PRODUCER: Albert Berger, Todd Field, Ron Yerxa
DIRECTOR: Todd Field
SCRIPT: Todd Field, Tom Perrotta (novel by Perrotta)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Antonio Calvache
EDITOR: Leo Trombetta
MUSIC: Thomas Newman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: David Gropman
RUNNING TIME: 136 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 8, 2007