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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

LITTLE CHILDREN (article first published : 2007-07-1)

Little Children made in 2006, was directed by Todd Field and stars Kate Winslet, Patrick Wilson, Jennifer Connelly and Jackie Earl Haley. It appeared on the National Arts Festival main film programme in Grahamstown.

Todd Field delivers a thought-provoking portrayal of suburban life, which revolves around the destructive and forbidden desires of the characters and their retribution as a consequence of them.

Little Children is at times tough to watch as it delivers subtle attacks on the audiences’ deepest fears and provokes in us a need to interrogate our own outlook and perspectives.

The plot centres on American myths and suburban existence of young couples and their children as they interact on the playground, in the swimming pool and on the street, which leads to dangerous conclusions.

Initially, the narrative is seemingly predictable with an obvious plot line. It centres on the traditional role reversal in the American nuclear family and the castration of patriarchy through the husband and wife relationship between Brad (Patrick Wilson) and Kathy (Jennifer Connelly).

Brad finds his antidote in an adulterous relationship with Sara (Kate Winslet). Fortunately, the film evolves from an illustration of the castration of patriarchy, and turns to offer a greater look at the insuppressibly overriding notions of desire and perversion through the second storyline of a Norman Bates type character Ronnie (Jackie Earl Haley). He gives a masterful performance in a difficult role as an Oedipal complex driven paedophile.

The characters are well cast and convincing and allow us to become completely entwined within the multi-faceted narrative. Todd Field masterfully achieves the effective use of power of suggestion and delivers a compelling drama veiled in aesthetically interesting shots. There is a noticeable lack of music but the ingenious sound design that lends what should be normal suburban sounds, amplifies an almost horror aesthetic of suburban existence and the threat to the American homeland.

Despite the subject matter, the film is entertaining and you will appreciate the sheer brilliance of Todd Field’s style and the narrative elements of subtle humour and shock to offer an in-depth portrayal of human emotion. If you like a good drama you will appreciate the nuances of the script that paradoxically evokes unusual sympathy in what is essentially abhorrent behaviour. – Kate MacIldowie




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