Set in sleepy suburban upstate New York, Little Children is a film about a group of youngish newly married couples and how their lives intersect at the playgrounds, pools and parks of their little town. With dynamite performances from an amazing ensemble cast, led by Kate Winslet as the sadly ignored wife of an older man, and Patrick Wilson, a Mr. Mom law school flunky who is continually standing in the shadow of his successful documentarian wife, played by a stunning thin Jennifer Connelly, Little Children could easily be my favorite film of the year.
With it’s calculated visual style, amazing transitions and storybook style narration revealing the inner longings of its central characters, Todd Field delivers up a knock out punch of a sophomore effort to 2001’s In The Bedroom.
Sara Pierce (Winslet) and Brad Adamson (Wilson) meet via a strange encounter, a dare drummed up by the group of women with whom Sara and her daughter share their afternoons at the playground. However when Brad and Sara finally meet face to face the encounter turns into a sort of odd confessional where Sara tells Brad of the three other women’s fantasies involving him (they call him ‘prom king’), with Sara eventually upping the stakes and daring Brad to kiss her, as a means of freaking the others out.
Soon after the kiss, both Brad and Sara, caught in stale loveless marriages cannot get the event and more importantly, the dormant passion for life it awakened in each of them, out of their minds. The two begin to meet casually with their children at the pool during the afternoons eventually their relationship evolves into an affair and they resolve that the best thing to do is to run away together. However a strange series of events involving a recently paroled child molester and his mother and a bullish cop who is stalking him (and who incidentally runs a touch football league which Brad joins, one of the funnier turns in the film) twists the plot in a way you never have anticipated.
All in all it is a boldly original film with great writing (Field and Tom Perrotta - based on his novel), rock solid directing and an ending you will never see coming in a million years. Not to mention amazing supporting turns by Jackie Earle Haley playing probably the creepiest character I have ever seen on the big screen and Noah Emmerich as a deranged ex-cop.
A fantastic film about longing for the love and exuberant accomplishment of youth, and the reasons why people choose to stay in marriages once they have lost their initial spark. A film about what we do for our children, because there is always hope for the future.