DUBBY’S DVDISCUSSION: An Oscar mother and Little Children


The American suburbs, and indeed the middle class anywhere in the world, conceal housewives who mask a silent scream of despair beneath their lives of cooking, cleaning, bringing up the kids, and the mind numbing routine that has the more intelligent amongst them in a state of constant despair.

Films like American Beauty have examined suburbia with gut wrenching results. Little Children is the latest.

Little Children is being tipped for an Oscar at the very least for the lead Kate Winslet, and it’s a dark horse for Best Film. But director Todd Field isn’t out to entertain you. He wants you to feel despair and do something about that scream we talked about.

Critic Betsy Bozdech says, “Based on the novel by Tom Perrotta, Little Children at first feels like a dark, satirical comedy about life in the suburbs. Sarah (Winslet) doesn’t fit in with other moms who gather each day, eagerly exchanging gossip and parenting tips. For one thing, Sarah’s just not that into being a mother — she sees her preschool-aged daughter as an ‘unknowable little person’. But the larger problem is that bookish, intellectual Sarah feels stagnant and alone in the land of white picket fences. That changes when she meets Brad (Patrick Wilson), a reluctantly aspiring lawyer/stay-at-home dad. As the two forge a friendship rippling with sexual tension, Little Children loses its satirical edge in favour of emotional drama, shifting between Sarah and Brad’s story and a subplot about a tormented sex offender. By the time everything comes together, all of them have changed irrevocably.”

In Britain, Little Children also received raves with writer Andy Lowe saying, “Winslet is outstanding, stumbling convincingly through the emotional fallout of her characters’ moment of madness/clarity. At first, grey-eyed and defeated, then cute, spark-ling, then simmering with sexual thirst, then breathless and ablaze at the pro-mise of escape. For some, the American Beauty-style narration, delivered in creamy baritone, will be a problem. But Field works it in sparingly as a crisp editorial chorus, directly hijacking paragraphs from Perrotta’s novel to rummage deeper inside his characters’ churning motivations (‘We want what we want and there’s nothing we can do about it’). Winslet and Wilson’s sexual re-awakening is the film’s erotic pulse, but Jackie Earle Haley’s coiled turn as demonised sex-pest Ronnie is its dark heartbeat. As the community clucks with outrage, he glides through their still waters — predatory and primal, crystal-blue eyes shining with torment. You’ll struggle to scrub him from memory.

Like all of Little Children’s characters, Ronnie is simply struggling to keep his basic instincts tamed beneath the exacting gaze of the adult world. Such a broad scattering of uncomfortable truth isn’t easy to digest and a few of the side-stories feel flabby. But Field gathers everything in a climax that trains a brutal light on the big idea: living is easy, growing up is hard.

Field takes his good time finessing flesh around initially cartoonish characters, clenching the tension to an almost unbearable final 15 minutes before grinding home a rabbit-punch of a reveal.”

The revealation is extraordinary as it talks about forgiveness, humanity and redemtion — big words that boil down to reaching out and joining separate loneliness.

The last word belongs to Premiere Magazine who say Winslet deserves the Oscar for a scene in a ladies’ book club where they are discussing Madam Bovary.

Watch for it. It’s a hoot.