Little Children (2006)
|Year Of Production||2006|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Todd Field|
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Jackie Earle Haley
Mary B. McCann
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Little Children is the second film by actor/director Todd Field, following on from the successful In the Bedroom. That film was a strange revenge drama wearing the shoes of a family melodrama.
In keeping with his disturbing milieu Little Children is a stunning drama with lashings of black comedy which craftily trips up the viewer at every turn. Even in a year that saw Pan's Labyrinth it was one of the strangest films to score multiple Oscar nominations.
This time around Field and fellow scriptwriter (and original author) has spun a skewed melodrama around the generic tale of adulthood, infidelity and suburban desperation.
Sarah Pierce ( Kate Winslet) is staring down the barrel of a loveless future. A master of literature she lives in a big house with her successful husband who is in branding (don't call it advertising!). She has a young daughter and her days are spent at the playground with a veritable vipers nest of mothers who lust after the local Mr Mom, Brad (Patrick Wilson).
Brad is also in a loveless marriage. Well, not exactly loveless but wife Kathy (Jennifer Connelly) definitely wears the pants around the house. Brad has failed the bar exam two years in a row and may never get to be a lawyer. Instead he spends his days with his young son in the playground and watching the local skateboard kids with the awe that only comes from a mid-life crisis.
Acting on a dare from the ladies Sarah chats to Brad and in a moment frozen in time steals a kiss. They gravitate towards a relationship that is hot and steamy.
Meanwhile the local area is in turmoil. Convicted child molester Ronnie McGorvey (former child star Jackie Earle Haley) is out of jail and moving back to the neighbourhood. Concerned parents don't want him there including troubled ex-cop Larry (Noah Emmerich). Larry is behind a campaign to drive him out which includes pasting posters everywhere and harassing him at home. Larry gets former football star Brad to join his team, allowing the shadow of manhood to reclaim some lost glory.
The plot outline suggests a regular relationship/infidelity drama with a hint of danger thrown in for good measure. That is far from the truth. Field uses television techniques to draw out all the quirks of the script and add a few of his own. Take, for example, the fact that there is a narrator who tells us about the characters. Voiced by uncredited documentary and US Advertisement regular Will Lyman it is funny, sardonic and disturbing, reminiscent of Desperate Housewives.
The whole tone of the film is unusual and its take on suburbia falls between the slyly satirical American Beauty and the flat out disturbing Happiness. This is a film that consistently confounds expectations. Fields builds up the tension to Ronnie's entrance with such skill that we see him as the victim before he appears. After all, sick though he is, the man has done his time and isn't left in peace. Then, when he makes his first appearance in a jaw-dropping scene, he is pathetic but also creepy beyond belief and perhaps deserving of the suburban concern.
Little Children is a film that constantly has the viewer on edge not knowing what will come next. That is not the result of tension built up but rather the lack of any familiar genre markers. Will Ronnie survive? If he does will he continue to prey on young children? Will the lovers find true happiness and escape the suburban grind? These questions are eventually answered by the film but in its own way and style.
As well as the script Kate Winslet and Jackie Earle Haley secured Oscar nominations for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor respectively. Neither really stood a chance. Winslet was up against The Queen and Haley's character is just too disturbing! Both inhabit their roles and act with great subtlety and skill. At the opening of the film Winslet is a woman who has let herself go through lack of care. By films end she is a revitalised person.
Winslet is one of the most accomplished actors of our generation and she proves it by connecting with the heart of her characters. Haley has not acted for 13 years and may jog some memories - he was Kelly Leak in The Bad News Bears movies. His performance captures every evil corner and sad hollow in this complex character making him understandable if not at all likeable.
The other cast members are equally up to the task. Wilson has that careless slacker feel about him which is both endearing and infuriating. Connelly perfectly captures the icy logic and perfect sense of her character as she slowly emasculates her man. Emmerich , so memorable from The Truman Show, does a great turn as Larry, a man so warped by his hatred of Ronnie that it is not clear who is more of a menace to society.
The Little Children of the title are not the pair who are manipulated by the lovers as they go about their romancing but the adults in this tale who are fatally flawed whilst recognisably human. The script is both lively and funny at the same time as it is shocking. Hand over mouth moments abound and Field is not afraid to let scenes linger as if he too is waiting to see what will happen.
The film is definitely left field and will infuriate those who like a drama done in a conventional manner. It is no masterpiece but is a welcome relief from cookie-cutter Hollywood dramas. Highly recommended for those who like to take the path less travelled.
Little Children is brought to DVD in a 2.35:1 transfer that matches its original aspect ratio. It is 16x9 enhanced.
There is nothing to complain about in the transfer. The image is very sharp and the colours are well handled. Having said that, the colour palette itself tends towards the muted and slightly drab, emphasising the grey lives of the characters.
The print is clear and clean and there are no compression issues.
The careful lighting of the interiors is well handled.
There is a fine film grain which looks good. Best of all are the flesh tones and the level of detail in the faces which are commonly in close up. We can see every wrinkle and pore in the actors faces.
There are subtitles in English and for the Hearing Impaired which give a good account of on-screen action.
Little Children has a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack running at 448Kb/s.
The soundscape is quite delicate and the DVD conveys the atmosphere of surround sound without containing any dramatic examples. The scenes at the local swimming pool are full of life and spacious to the ear. There are no problems with audio sync.
The subwoofer is only used briefly. Likewise the music of composer Thomas Newman is used sparingly. It is a very subtle score which serves as a brooding undercurrent to the action.
This is really a dialogue driven movie and the dialogue is rendered clearly.
|Surround Channel Use|
Wikipedia suggests that the Special Edition of the film includes 4 different endings. It remains to be seen when and if this edition reaches our shores. It also remains to be seen whether the endings are worth watching.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region 1 version of this film is identical.
Little Children is a difficult and at times challenging film which gets a very pleasing transfer.
The lack of extras will be annoying for some and hopefully a "real" special edition is not too far away.
|DVD||Pioneer DVR 630H-S, using Component output|
|Display||Panasonic TH-50PV60A 50' Plasma. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Amplification||Onkyo TX - SR603|
|Speakers||Onkyo 6.1 Surround|