Little Children - Good Little Children
| Director Todd Field isnít known for happy-go-lucky films. His last film, In the Bedroom could be described as a downer. Surprisingly, Little Children, with its subjects of infidelity, pedophilia and mob violence is actually a bit of an optimistic film.
Little Children tells the story of an affair between two parents who meet on a playground. The impossibly beautiful Kate Winslet and Patrick Wilson are the lovers who connect at moments when they come to understand how their lives have become disappointingly mundane. In each other they find some passion as their mundane little suburban world begins to disintegrate around them.
The community begins to unravel as it reacts to the presence of a released pedophile who is unsuccessfully trying to build some sort of normal life. The characters bump into each other in awkward, desperate ways and end up in a place of understanding of their own flaws, their unsuccessful attempts at actualization and an acceptance of their ďfates.Ē In the end, the characters find some peace with who they are and in that way the film feels optimistic.
The performances in Little Children are rich. Both Winslet and Wilson have managed to craft careers that show their strengths as performers despite their leading man/leading lady appearances. Little Children allows them both to shine. Their roles are the kind that provide ample opportunity for subtle yet powerful moments. There arenít shrieking look-at-me-vie-for-an-Oscar moments. Instead, their whole performances are examples of actors at the top of their craft.
Also strong is Jennifer Connelly, another impossible beauty, in a very small but well turned role. As Wilsonís distant wife, she brings a reality to her character that really could have blended into the background. Instead, she makes the character as resonate at the others.
Surprisingly, Little Children is quite funny. The humour is dark, touching on things that are uncomfortable and dangerous. However, the humour is also very human. Itís a powerful humour that gets inside us. While you wonít laugh out loud at Little Children, itís hard not to smile sometimes.
Field does some interesting things in this film. One of the most interesting is how he ties it all together with a Twilight Zone-style narrator. A narrator in a film like this is off putting enough, but to make it echo that surreal show puts us off balance a bit. This is a suburban, mundane landscape and the voice gives it that creepiness that makes us know things aren't as they should be.
In the end Little Children is a surprising feel good film. It takes a pretty rough road to get there but you leave with a sense that we can survive horrible things and poor choices. We are reminded of the beauty of our flawed humanity. In the end we can survive and maybe learn something along the way. Thatís not so bad.