Semi-satirical suburban angst

With its semi-satirical suburban angst, a series of interwoven plots and a knowingly sarcastic narrative, Todd Field’s adaptation of Tom Perrotta’s novel is akin to an alliance between American Beauty, Desperate Housewives and Happiness.

Fortunately its dramatic focus is more finely tuned than such a comparison would suggest.

The central narrative explores the affair between Brad (Patrick Wilson), a home-based father who feels marginalised in his marriage to Kathy (Jennifer Connelly), and Sarah (Kate Winslet), an academic and reluctant housewife whose own marriage is encapsulated in difficulties. The upper middle-class in which they live is in the grip of paranoia following the release from prison of Ronald (Jackie Earle Haley), a man convicted for indecent exposure to children and loved only by his ageing mother. Former police officer Larry (Noah Emmerich) is determined to drive Ronald out of the neighbourhood.

It’s the finer tuned embellishments as much as the bigger picture that dictates Little Children’s success; Kathy’s slow erosion of Brad’s masculinity is as vital as the evidence of Ronald’s mother’s love for him. It’s not that Ronald is particularly captured with sympathy but his development as a character of complexity, loved by his mother and ultimately self-disgusted, is more complete than the media’s depiction of him as a monster.

Ultimately, Little Children is about insecurities, fear and regret. Each character’s actions are dictated by their disappointments in the past and their desperate struggle for a better future.

Little Children is that rarest of beasts; a perfect amalgamation between art and accessibility and nowhere is that more evident than in the juxtaposition between an examination of a sexual predator and a traditional extra-marital romance. It contrasts an inherently contemplative nature with radical scenes that still command credibility. It’s a modern day classic.

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