Todd Field's Little Children Review: Definitely Worth It!
by Alex Billington
January 4, 2007
Editor's Note: Review was written in October after the initial press screening.
Ticking clocks start and end Little Children, a tale of two individuals, their families, and a town. Todd Field has demonstrated all the subtleties of great filmmaking: his expertise pays off in creating one of the most erotically thrilling and cinematically enjoyable films of the year. To best understand why Little Children is one of the better films of 2006, it's best to delve into the intriguing story.
Sarah Pierce (Kate Winslet), a middle-aged wife and mother of young Lucy (Sadie Goldstein), sits at the local playground disgustingly observing three other mothers as they gossip and watch their children play. A narration explains her rather bland and unexciting life story. It's not long before Brad (Patrick Wilson), "the prom king," shows up at the park with his son Aaron (Ty Simpkins). Brad's attractiveness makes the other mothers nervous, yet sparks a faint interest that eventually builds into much more in Sarah's mind. In addition, the local gossip centers on a sex offender who is reportedly moving into a neighborhood full of kids. The story builds as Sarah finally meets and suggests that Brad play a trick on the other mothers who had bet that she couldn't get his number. Before long much unfolds in the town as the sex offender is subjected to public ridicule while the lives of both Sarah and Brad and their families intersect on a climactic level.
Little Children is a powerful drama with plenty of sexual romance. The mood is quite heavy and daunting from the very start to the end, however the film is vastly captivating. Where most independent dramas often fill up 90 minutes with boring overly-long scenes, Little Children never has one dull moment in its 130 minutes. It moves at a solid pace and thoroughly keeps the viewer's attention piqued. The romance is the primary emphasis, but the film stays away from sappy elements so as not to come across as a stereotypical "chick flick." The plot is quite invigorating, surrounding not only the eventual affair between Sarah and Brad, but also the sex offender and his impact on the town. In the end, Little Children focused too much on the sex offender and his presence at the expense of the relationship between Sarah and Brad that developed so profoundly. Narration accompanies a few scenes, largely in the beginning and end, and is entirely a poor inclusion. It does add another level of depth, but through a very banal method that is no better than reading lines straight out of a book.
Nearly every scene is entrancing thanks to the impeccable performances from Kate Winslet and Patrick Wilson and the exquisite camerawork. There is only once or twice, specifically a misplaced football scene near the end, where the smooth flow of the story is broken. Little Children uses American icons and pastimes to which many in the audience can relate, such as football, swimming pools during the summer, jogging, and book clubs. It's generally a subconscious recognition, but it's these connections that really bring the story to a close personal connection and that draw the audience in. Little Children also uses sound very subtly to build up the scenes and the mood. In the trailer there is nothing but the sound of a train passing, increasing in volume concordantly with the intensity of what is shown. Often in the movie the sound of the train passing by can be heard in the background, as well as other subtle sounds such as ticking clocks. Many of these elements help build Little Children into an incredible film all-around.
Give or take a few minor negatives, director and screenwriter Todd Field has put together an astounding film led by charismatic performances from Kate Winslet, Patrick Wilson, and Noah Emmerich. Though not a completely perfect film, Little Children succeeds on so many levels that you can't help but enjoy it. It's a profound and powerful story that will draw in the audience deeply. Little Children skips around briefly in its tone and progression, but it stays absorbing from the start to its gripping conclusion. It definitely deserves an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, but not necessarily a win. If you see only a few movies this entire year, at least make this one of them - you will not regret it.