Three Oscar nominations, a stellar cast, and a gifted filmmaker could not save Little Children from abysmal box office receipts. The film never even got a chance, as its widest release had Todd Field’s superb drama in only 115 US theaters. Hopefully more people will discover the dark, disturbing suburbia of Little Children on DVD, as it is one of the best films of recent years that nobody seems to know about.
The film follows several different individuals living in the same neighborhood, each with their own personal demons and innermost desires. Residents, especially the overly aggressive Larry (Noah Emmerich), go up in arms when a registered sex offender (the phenomenal Jackie Earle Haley) moves into their leafy suburban terrain, yet for Sarah (Kate Winslet) and Brad (Patrick Wilson) there are other issues to deal with. The two are having an illicit affair, as both are unhappy in their respective marriage. Jennifer Connelly play’s Brad’s oblivious wife, thus rounding out the film’s talented cast. Todd Field (In the Bedroom) crafts a film that challenges viewers to look deeper into a setting where everything seems pristine on the outside. These characters and their actions are all flawed, which is what makes Little Children so realistic.
Suburbia is not a place of simplicity in the film, as white picket fences are accompanied by vicious human nature and the darkness of the psyche. A narrator (Will Lyman) recites portions of the story to the audience, and this unconventional twist serves as the tipping point for just how great Little Children is. Typically a narrator would be out of place in such an adult drama, yet Field masterfully utilizes this odd storytelling technique to simultaneously enhance the story and reel in the audience. As a film, Little Children is not only enormously entertaining, it is also refreshing in its ambition to stimulate audiences through its realistic authenticity. Rarely have bored suburbanites been this engrossing.