Little Children (film)

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Little Children
Little children post.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Todd Field
Produced by Todd Field
Albert Berger
Ron Yerxa
Screenplay by Todd Field
Tom Perrotta
Based on Little Children 
by Tom Perrotta
Starring Kate Winslet
Jennifer Connelly
Patrick Wilson
Jackie Earle Haley
Noah Emmerich
Gregg Edelman
Phyllis Somerville
Narrated by Will Lyman
Music by Thomas Newman
Cinematography Antonio Calvache
Edited by Leo Trombetta
Bona Fide
Standard Film Company
Distributed by New Line Cinema
Release dates
  • October 6, 2006 (2006-10-06)
Running time
136 minutes[2]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $26,000,000[3]
Box office $14,821,658[4]

Little Children is a 2006 American drama film directed by Todd Field. It is based on the novel of the same name by Tom Perrotta, who along with Field wrote the screenplay. It stars Kate Winslet, Patrick Wilson, Jennifer Connelly, Jackie Earle Haley, Noah Emmerich, Gregg Edelman, Phyllis Somerville and Will Lyman. The original music score is composed by Thomas Newman. The film screened at the 44th New York Film Festival organized by the Film Society of Lincoln Center. It earned 3 nominations at the 79th Academy Awards: Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for Haley, Academy Award for Best Actress for Winslet and Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for Field and Perrotta.


Sarah Pierce (Kate Winslet) is a 30-year-old, stay-at-home mother in a small suburban Boston community. She had been working on a doctorate in English, but once she married Richard (Gregg Edelman) and had their daughter, the presently three-year-old Lucy (Sadie Goldstein), she set aside her research. Now she spends her days taking Lucy to a local park along with three other rather Stepfordesque stay at-home mothers: the severe and judgmental Mary Ann (Mary B. McCann) and more timid Theresa (Trini Alvarado) and Cheryl (Marsha Dietlein). They enjoy ogling from a distance Brad Adamson (Patrick Wilson), a handsome and well-built father that they have nicknamed "The Prom King" who brings his son, Aaron (Ty Simpkins), to the park. When their children use the same swing set, Sarah and Brad have an opportunity to talk to one another, titillating the other women. But when they, on a lark, hug and kiss, the women immediately take their children out of the park and refuse to associate with Sarah anymore. Both Brad and Sarah have unhappy home lives. Brad has yet to pass the Massachusetts state bar exam and doesn't even want to be a lawyer. However, his wife, Kathy (Jennifer Connelly), wants him to succeed. She makes documentaries for public television for a living. They live a bit beyond their means, forcing them to accept financial support from Kathy's affluent mother. They haven't been having sex because they are growing apart. When he is supposed to be studying for the bar exam, Brad instead sits and watches teenagers skateboard outside his house, fantasizing about being young and carefree again. One night, an acquaintance, Larry (Noah Emmerich), persuades Brad, who played quarterback on his high school football team, to join his amateur football team, the Guardians.

Larry is a former police officer forced to retire a few years earlier when he accidentally shot a teenager at a local shopping mall who was holding a fake gun. Now he is estranged from his wife and spends much of his time harassing Ronnie McGorvey (Jackie Earle Haley), a freaky neighbor recently released from prison after serving several years. Ronnie had been incarcerated for exposing himself to a minor and has a long criminal record for sexually molesting young girls. Brad does not feel comfortable with Larry's campaign against Ronnie to force him to move from the neighborhood, but rarely tries to prevent him from carrying it out.

Sarah's marriage to Richard is as sexless as Brad's is to Kathy. In this case, however, it is because he is addicted to Internet pornography. One day she catches him masturbating in his office to the website of a woman known as "Slutty Kay" and they begin to sleep separately. She buys a flattering swimsuit and begins to attend the public pool because she knows she will see Brad there. They begin a deep but platonic relationship and their children become friends. Brad is drawn to Sarah's interest in him, even though he does not find her particularly physically attractive. Sarah craves being sexually desired by someone as conventionally handsome and masculine as Brad. When Ronnie is discovered in the pool all of the occupants force their children out of the pool and call the police, who orders Ronnie to get out of the pool and is taken into custody, despite Ronnie's defense to cool off in the pool. One day, when they have to leave the pool due to a sudden rainstorm, they return to Sarah's house. Brad discovers a photo of himself tucked away in a collection of Shakespearean sonnets. Unable to contain their desire for each other, they have rough sex in the basement while their children sleep upstairs.

Meanwhile, Ronnie lives with his mother, May (Phyllis Somerville), who has taken him in after his release from prison. She believes that if he were to find the right woman, his sexual desire for children would disappear. Aware of his mental problems with the fascination for young girls, Ronnie knows this is futile but agrees to go out on a date May has arranged for him with a woman in another town, Sheila (Jane Adams). During dinner at a local restaurant, Ronnie meets Sheila and he quickly reveals his dark past. Sheila does not seem to mind and she tells Ronnie that she has her own emotional demons and they get along well. However, the date ends badly when he has her drive by the neighborhood elementary school playground so he can masturbate next to her in the car.

Elsewhere, Sarah and Brad grow closer. He skips taking the bar exam so they can have a romantic getaway together. Kathy grows suspicious and tells Brad to invite Sarah, Richard and Lucy over for dinner so she can meet them. The intimacy evident between Brad and Sarah confirms her suspicions, and Kathy arranges for her mother to come for an extended visit so Brad and Sarah can't see one another anymore. However, when Brad's football team plays its final game, Kathy and her mother stay home feeling that their suspicions about Brad are nothing. Sarah attends and cheers as Brad scores the winning touchdown in the team's only victory of the season. Afterwards, while Larry waits for Brad at a nearby bar to celebrate their victory, Brad and Sarah make out on the field. He admits the moment is his happiest ever and asks Sarah to run away with him. She agrees.

Hurt that Brad has stood him up, Larry goes to Ronnie's house and wakes the neighborhood up by using a bullhorn to taunt Ronnie. The neighbors come out to ask him to stop but May confronts him angrily. In the process, she suffers a severe heart attack. Larry is arrested and May taken to the hospital. While Ronnie sleeps in the waiting room, May dies. Her last act is to write a note to Ronnie: "Please be a good boy." Ronnie is distraught and despondent. He goes home and destroys much of his mother's collection of Hummel figurines, then takes a butcher knife from the kitchen.

That very same night, Sarah and Brad agree to rendezvous in the park where they first met to run away together. Brad tells Aaron he loves him before putting him to bed, writes Kathy a note explaining why he is leaving her, then sneaks out while she and her mother finish the dishes. But before he can get to the park, he is distracted by the skateboarding teenagers again. They convince him to try a jump himself. Unable to resist the rush of wanting to re-live his youth, Brad does so but crashes and knocks himself out. When he comes to, he asks the ambulance paramedic to call his wife—Kathy—to meet him at the hospital. It turns out that he never left the note for her and tells one of the skateboarders to dispose of it for him.

Meanwhile, Sarah takes Lucy to the park. She is shocked to see Ronnie stagger in but after watching him cry about his dead mother, she feels sorry for him. When Lucy briefly disappears, Sarah realizes her getaway with Brad is just a fantasy and that Brad is not coming. She takes Lucy home and puts her to bed.

Larry is upset about causing May's death. He genuinely wants to apologize to Ronnie and finds him in the park where Sarah left him. He notices blood on the ground. Ronnie has castrated himself and is bleeding to death. Larry picks him up and races him to the hospital. He knows Ronnie has done bad things in the past but also recognizes that doesn't mean he has to do bad things in the future. They arrive at the hospital just as Kathy meets Brad's ambulance at the emergency room doors.



Perrotta and Field working on the script for Little Children

For this film, director Todd Field and novelist Tom Perrotta intended to take the story in a separate and somewhat different direction than the novel. "When Todd and I began collaborating on the script, we were hoping to make something new out of the material, rather than simply reproducing the book onto film," says Perrotta.[5]

Critical reception[edit]

Reviews of the film were generally positive. Based on 157 reviews collected by the film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 80% of critics gave Little Children a positive review (125 "Fresh"; 32 "Rotten"), with an average rating of 7.4/10.[6] A. O. Scott of The New York Times said "Mr. Field proves to be among the most literary of American filmmakers. In too many recent movies intelligence is woefully undervalued, and it is this quality — even more than its considerable beauty — that distinguishes Little Children from its peers. A movie that is challenging, accessible, and hard to stop thinking about."[7] Scott later placed Little Children ninth on his list of the top 10 films of 2006.[8]

The Los Angeles Times '​s Carina Chocano said "Little Children is one of those rare films that transcends its source material. Firmly rooted in the present and in our current frame of mind — a time and frame of mind that few artists have shown interest in really exploring — the movie is one of the few films I can think of that examines the baffling combination of smugness, self-abnegation, ceremonial deference and status anxiety that characterizes middle-class Gen X parenting, and find sheer, white-knuckled terror at its core."[9]

Awards and honors[edit]

Film archives[edit]

35mm safety prints are housed in both the UCLA Film & Television Archive[10] and the Museum of Modern Art's permanent film collection.[11]

Differences between the film and the novel[edit]

  • While the film is a drama, the book is satirical in nature and is much more of a black comedy.
  • Brad in the movie was named Todd in the novel.
  • In the novel, Sarah wore a red bikini at the swimming pool area. In the movie, it was a one-piece.
  • The novel does not end with a hospital scene.
  • Near the end novel Richard leaves Sarah for a porn star named "Slutty Kay" who lives in San Diego. He goes to San Diego under the guise of a business trip there. In the film he doesn't leave Sarah and is described as simply being in San Diego on a business trip.
  • At the end of the novel, Ronnie admits to Sarah that he has given in to his compulsions and has murdered a young girl. In the film, there is no such confession and Ronnie only harms himself via castration.


External links[edit]