When we’re children we are encouraged to fantasize, but as we grow older that type of behavior becomes discouraged. We are taught to do as we are told and fight the urge to act on instinct. Directed by Todd Field (In the Bedroom), Little Children tells the story of a community of people who, despite their age, have allowed themselves to succumb to their fantasies. The movie explores a range of fantasy from those as innocent as the daydreams of lonely homemakers to the more sinister desires of a convicted sex offender.
Among the members of this anonymous New England community are Sarah Pierce (Kate Winslet) and Brad Adamson (Patrick Wilson). To the outside world each wears the mask of devoted spouse and loving parent, but beneath the façade both feel trapped. At a local playground where all the neighborhood mothers come to gossip, Sarah finds herself taking a bet to see if she can get the phone number of “the prom king” – the only father to ever be seen at the playground. Sarah not only gets Brad’s number, but the two also share a kiss and eventually much more.
Against the backdrop of this steamy affair, the audience is also shown the darker side of fantasy. It appears that a convicted sex offender has moved into this picturesque community and sparked a crusade of moral judgment. Judgment, it seems, that is fueled by fear and personal guilt.
Kate Winslet does an excellent job of portraying a woman trying to play a role she feels society has thrust upon her. The vulnerability of her performance allows us to experience her character’s personal struggle to reluctantly suppress the lovesick teenager inside her.
Little Children is a movie that does not apologize for itself. Its characters are consumed with concealing their true selves but the way their story is told leaves each completely exposed. And it is through this raw portrayal that we, as an audience, are able to appreciate that inside every adult lurks a mischievous child.