American Todd Field is another from a constellation of not overly successful and famous actors who has turned into an exceptional screenwriter and director. After acting mostly episodes in various films and series since the mid-1980s, Field made a quality “In the Bedroom” in 2001, five years after “Little Children”, and then simply disappeared. But even with these two feature films, Field deserves all the praise and in total these two films had eight Oscar nominations. “Little Children” three of them – Kate Winslet for Best Actress, Jackie Earl Haley for Supporting Actor and Field and Tom Perrotta for an adapted screenplay based on Perrott’s 2004 novel of the same name.
It’s a dark story about life in a Boston suburb whose idyll will be shattered when pedophile Ronny (Haley), who has just been released from prison, moves there. This idyll should not be taken literally because it is typically a suburb where almost everyone pokes their nose into other people’s affairs and other people’s lives, and tries to present their lives as flawless and exemplary. Outwardly, the lives of Sarah (Winslet) and Brad (Patrick Wilson) seem relatively harmonious. Sarah is a housewife raising her three-year-old daughter Lucy and preparing her doctorate while her husband Richard works in marketing. Brad, on the other hand, is the unemployed father of four-year-old Aaron who can’t pass the bar exam, and his wife Kathy (Jennifer Connely) works as a television documentary.
Coincidentally, they will meet on the playground, start spending more and more time together and all this will lead to an extramarital affair. And as Sarah lifts her hands from the husband of an internet porn addict, Brad seems to be trying to resist instincts, but from an initially exemplary husband, more and more he seems to start fantasizing and imagining how beautiful it was once he had no commitments. He will befriend former police officer Larry (Noah Emmerich) and join a police football team, and outraged Larry will be constantly frustrated by Ronny’s frustration. While it’s clear to us that Ronny is a sick and deranged guy who obviously has no help, Larry’s survival on him will cross all boundaries, and in parallel, the romance between Sarah and Brad will flare up completely.
The film is about illusions. About the illusions of ideal lives and about people who seem to feel somehow trapped in their lives and would like to change that, but just don’t know how. On the other hand, they seemed to be lulled into the safety of their daily lives and lethargy, and the meeting on the playground seemed to throw Brad, and especially Sarah, completely off balance. Suddenly it is as if they will decide to risk the security they have and their lives offer them, but the question is whether there is a way out at all or is it all self-deception. The stories of the Sarah and Brad affair will unfold in parallel with the fringe story of a pedophile who arrived in the neighborhood, a guy whose presence all locals hate and whose mom is trying to change even though it will become clear that it is pathological.
So even though we are aware that Ronny is a patient that no normal person would want near him, Field has managed to make all the important characters here, including him, at least to some extent understand and realize the pain created by captivity in his own life. This inability to escape on their own and to indulge in instincts that they are aware that they cannot bring them anything good and that all this is a short-term deviation from the planned everyday life. A bit on the trail of “American Beauty” and this film offers an interesting and honest insight within the homes of a typical American suburb where apparently almost every house hides some dark and sad story. Movie Rating 10/10
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