Little Children, written and directed by Todd Field is a film with a lot of potential. Set in an affluent suburb, it deals with the angst of 30-something folks who’ve seen the death of their youthful aspirations and endure lives confined the mundane.
Sarah Pierce (Kate Winslet) is married to Richard (Gregg Edelman). She wonders why she didn’t follow her passion for anthropology as she uncaringly cares for her daughter Lucy (Sadie Goldstein) and tolerates her husband who masturbates to a web porn star (with her panties over his head).
Sarah tolerates the supercilious mothers’ group at the playground, but life gets more interesting as the guy known at the “Prom King” Brad Adamson (Patrick Wilson) walks into the playground with this son Aaron (Ty Simpkins).
Brad is a law school grad who’s failed the bar twice and is supported by his documentary filmmaker wife, Kathy (Jennifer Connelly). Kathy clearly wants him to pass the bar but instead of studying, Brad watches kids at the skate park on his way to the library. He also finds other time-wasting techniques like getting involved with the night football league. As a loving mother who works to put food on the table, Kathy spends the little time at home with Aaron always in her presence and it is clear that Brad and Kathy don’t have much of a relationship.
The film starts off with the neighborhood in a tizzy because sexual predator, Ronald James McGorvey (Jackie Earle Haley) has moved back into his mother’s house in the neighborhood. Larry Hedges (Noah Emmerich), a former police officer with several psychological issues, makes it his life’s mission to hound Ronald and make his life miserable.
The film revolves around the life of the community and specifically the lives of Sarah and Brad, who, as they spend more and more time together at the playground and the swimming pool, realize that nap time for the kids means sex time for the adults.
Sarah’s desperate desire to escape her banal life is in full view when she compares herself with Madame Bovary and she escapes to her dream life with the gorgeous man who picks her (with her full figure and unkempt appearance) over his long-legged, full-breasted, elegant wife.
Overall, this is a film that tries really hard and falls short. The subject of film is of great interest to me since it deals with my peer group and how life happens to them/us. But you don’t truly empathize with any of the characters. You don’t get involved enough to empathize. There is a distance that is maintained throughout that makes it difficult to love this film.
The best parts of the film were the moments which involved Lucy and Sarah’s relationship – when Sarah comes home after a weekend with Brad to see “Welcome Home, Mommy” sign that she has no reaction to; when Lucy wakes up and tries to give Sarah the gift she made her as Sarah obsesses about her face in the bathroom. The most moving moment comes when Sarah loses Lucy in the playground in the middle of the night and panics. When she finally finds Lucy, she finally realizes how much she loves the little girl and as she sobs, Lucy comforts her. Those were the only moment when the film really hooked me.