Little Children

 
Directed by: Todd Field
Written by:Todd Field, Tom Perrotta
Starring: Kate Winslet, Patrick Wilson, Jennifer Connelly, Noah Emmerich, Jackie Earle Haley, Phyllis Somerville
Released: February 8, 2007
Grade: A

I tried to start this review by describing the characters and the situation they find themselves in.  It was too difficult a task.  To sum it up as best I can, Little Children is the story of a group of ordinary looking people who live in an ordinary looking neighbourhood.  In the company of others, they present themselves as happy individuals.  Deep down, they are not.

It may sound a little like Desperate Housewives but Little Children offers much more.  It’s a thought provoking drama from Todd Field, the director of In The Bedroom, and Tom Perrotta, author of Election (made into a 1999 film with Reese Witherspoon).  It feels like an emotional rollercoaster.  In one scene you’ll dislike a particular character and in the next, you’ll be sympathising with them.  The film highlights the often forgotten reality that the people around us aren’t always who they appear to be.

Little Children is anything but conventional.  It’s as if there’s a randomness to the whole movie.  We move between the inter-locking stories with no sense of where we’re going next.  Characters are introduced (some later than others) and you’re never quite sure what purpose they’ll serve.  A narrator pops in from time-to-time to help explain the strange happenings but his deep voice only adds to the film’s disturbing tone.

As a bored mother looking for attention, Kate Winslet has earned her fifth Academy Award nomination.  That’s an incredible achievement for an actress who is just 31 years of age.  The fact that she chose this low-budget movie (over more highly paid projects) says volumes about the quality of the script and her own great taste.

The other performance receiving attention is that of Jackie Earle Haley as a convicted sex offender looking for a fresh start.  Haley starred in the 1976 original of The Bad News Bears (as a 14-year-old) and hasn’t made a movie in 13 years.  In his first role back, Haley has earned an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor and picked up plenty of critics’ awards.  It’s a great comeback story.

I’ve dropped a few hints as to the types of issues that Little Children explores.  It is confronting but I like what it has to say.  Nothing is as simple as black and white.