Once again Hollywood takes a look at the screwed up world that is suburbia. Like American Beauty before it, Little Children asks a lot of questions about what happens behind closed doors and what if this scenario happened.
Little Children stars Kate Winslet as Sarah Pierce, a bored housewife whose marriage has turned loveless and her husband does nothing but take her for granted. One day while taking her kids to the park, Sarah sees a new stay-at-home dad, Brad Adamson (Patrick Wilson). Sarah is dared by her two crass friends to talk to the new "stud" of the park. Sarah strikes up a conversation and starts to notice that her and Brad have a lot in common when it comes to marriage, children, and general interest. A bond forms and Brad becomes the focus of Sarah's inspiration in her mundane world. When an innocent friendship turns into an affair, both of their worlds threaten to unravel.
Director Todd Field, who brought us 2001's mesmerizing In the Bedroom, steps back behind the camera for this film and co-writes the film with novelist Tony Perrotta, who wrote the book to which the film is based. Perrotta's most famous novel was probably "Election", which was turned into a film in 1999 starring Reese Witherspoon.
It makes a lot of sense that this film would appeal to Field given that this film and In The Bedroom have so much in common about suburbia, relationships, forbidden love, and the fracturing family values.
Field does an amazing job with this film as he incorporates a narrator into the film which almost becomes a character unto itself. It is utterly brilliant narration and makes the film feel deeper than you can possibly imagine. Narration is naturally frowned upon in film unless it's during the opening credits, but for some reason Field makes it work here with such ease. I also loved that Field had a lot of scenes without music or background noise, but instead just the actors. This made the film feel more genuine.
Kate Winslet is a dynamic actress and has had a sorted and disjointed career, but her performance here could be the best she has ever done. Winslet's performance with the narration makes Sarah Pierce one of the most enduring, genuine, and dynamic characters we have ever seen on film. I would have to say that Winslet's performance here is probably the best I have seen from an actress all year. She is hands-down utterly brilliant.
Patrick Wilson compliments Winslet in every scene, but we are more caught up in her viewpoint of who Brad is than the performance by Wilson. His scenes away from Winslet are less dynamic, but I did thoroughly enjoy his scenes with his dominating wife, Kathy (played by Jennifer Connelly).
There are also other subplots going on in the film that accent just how strange suburbia can be. The plots involving Brad's best friend and the reformed pedophile really make your skin crawl, but add a lot of intensity to this already-evolving story.
Little Children is hands down one of the best films of the year, not just for Winslet but as a film itself. I could easily see it being a front-runner for Oscar. (5 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.