A brilliant case study of small-town suburbia, deep-rooted desires, and our overwhelming inability to control them, Todd Field´s sophomore feature Little Children is a compelling, captivating experience.
Like the director´s first film, the Oscar-nominated In the Bedroom, we delve into the underbelly of seemingly ‘normal´ society. But unlike the first feature, which veered into melodrama in the second half without the same emotional conviction that preceded it, ‘Children´ is sure-handed all the way through, as uneasy situations are handled with grace and care.
Story focuses on two caregivers – mother Kate Winslet, whose husband (Gregg Edelman) becomes obsessed with internet pornography, and father Patrick Wilson, emotionally distant from documentarian wife Jennifer Connelly.
The two meet on the playground and begin an unusual affair: neither of them seems to know what they want, but they aren´t afraid to give in to their base desires. The entire cast is remarkable: Winslet and Wilson are exceptional as the leads, but supporting cast is just as good.
Connelly makes the most of her limited screen time: she´s simply amazing during a dinner table scene where she realizes her husband may be having an affair, a silent look conveying what words could not.
And Jackie Earle Haley gives the performance of his career, his only notable one since 1979´s Breaking Away, as the neighborhood´s sexual deviant – a character with problems, which the film isn´t afraid to hide, but one we still manage to empathize with. Noah Emmerich is just as good as his antagonist, in a role that could have easily been overplayed but instead quietly fleshed out.
Cinematography, editing, music are all outstanding – the use ambient sound here is unforgettable. Voice-over narration, distracting in most films, perfectly matches the direction here; it´s done with the flair of a PBS documentary, treating the characters as subjects in a study of human desire.
A superior film; one of the best of 2006.