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Film / Little Children

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Little Children is a 2006 American drama film directed by Todd Field. It is based on the 2004 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.

In suburban Boston, the lives of two lovelorn spouses from separate marriages, a registered sex offender, and a disgraced ex-police officer intersect as they struggle to resist their various vulnerabilities and temptations.

The film earned Academy Award nominations for Best Actress (Winslet), Best Supporting Actor (Haley), and Best Adapted Screenplay. Thomas Newman composed the music score.

This film provides examples of:

  • Accidental Child-Killer Backstory: As in the novel, Larry is a Troubled Sympathetic Bigot who was forced out of the police and hunts down the child molester Ronnie as a result. It turns out that Larry was fired after shooting and killing a child after mistaking his toy pistol for a real gun.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Sarah is described as plain in the novel, but is portrayed by Kate Winslet. This causes the Hollywood Homely trope in the film as Sarah is still angsting over her perceived inferiority to her lover's stunningly attractive wife.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Very downplayed. In the novel, Ronnie kills a girl after his mother's death. In the film he directs his pain inward, castrating himself.
  • The Atoner: Larry, for shooting a kid by accident.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Sarah, mostly.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Everybody has their own problems and secret motivations.
    • Sarah is stagnating in a loveless marriage and has difficulties connecting to her own daughter.
    • Brad is miserable in a sexless marriage and desires to recapture his youth.
    • Ronald is a sex offender struggling with his urges whilst being harassed and vilified by the neighborhood.
    • Larry is trying to make up for a mistake in his past by obsessing on a clear-cut 'villain'.
    • Mae is devoting all her time to her son and trying to keep a leash on him.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Ronald James McGorvey, who loves his mother and whose mother loves him even though he's a pedophile.
  • Fanservice: The sex scenes between Sarah and Brad especially since they're played by Kate Winslet (herself a Ms. Fanservice) and Patrick Wilson (a Mr. Fanservice).
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: Sarah does not love her husband, but only cheats after discovering his obsession with a porn star. Brad does it as an escape from feeling neglected by his controlling workaholic wife and underappreciated as a parent. The one who has his affair portrayed negatively is Richard, who starts obsessing over Slutty Kay.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: When Ronnie castrates himself.
  • Foreshadowing: Early on, Mary Ann and Larry both suggest that Ronnie be castrated. He does it himself at the end and a horrified Larry has to drive him to the hospital.
  • Groin Attack: At the end, Ronnie castrates himself.
  • Grey-and-Grey Morality: Oh so much....
  • Jump Off The Slippery Slope: Ronnie agrees to go on a date with a woman his age and try to leave his pedophilic urges behind. Then he has his date drive next to the playground so he can masturbate to the sight of the swings, and threatens to kill her if she tells anyone.
  • Madonna-Whore Complex: Discussed in the Book Club scene where the members read Madame Bovary and Mary Ann sees the titular character as a slut, the other book club members try to take a more neutral approach when they weren't confused about the sex acts described, and Sarah takes a more "diplomatic" approach (trying to justify herself) suggesting that the main character was trying to take control of her life.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: Sarah and Brad first have sex on a countertop in a basement.
  • Mama Didn't Raise No Criminal: Downplayed. Mae is very much aware that her son is a pedophile, but she does her best to get him to change and won't have random vigilantes harass him because of his past crimes.
  • No Ending: Brad injures himself in a vain attempt to feel young, Ronnie castrates himself and all the other plotlines are unresolved.
  • Obnoxious Entitled Housewife: Mary Ann, she is a judgemental housewife who prides herself on appearing to be a perfect mother and shames other moms when they don't match up to her standards. In the Lit Club scene, she goes so far as to slut shame Madame Bovary (really Sarah) and she even engages in harassing Brad.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: To everyone else in the lit club it seems as if Sarah and Mary Ann discuss whether Madame Bovary's affairs could be considered a feminist act. In reality, Mary Ann is slut-shaming Sarah who defends her pursuit of happiness in her relationship with Brad.
  • Schlubby, Scummy Security Guard: In both the book and the film, Larry is a security guard who was thrown out of the police for shooting an unarmed black teenager with a toy gun. He struggles with PTSD and rage following the killing, and fixates on Ronnie to take his anger and feelings of impotence out on someone else.
  • Sexless Marriage: Brad and Kathy, Sarah and Richard.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Mrs. McGorvey to Larry about how her son wouldn't gun down a child like he did.
  • Stepford Smiler: Many of the characters, to hide their own misery.
  • Stepford Suburbia: The film's setting.
  • Trauma Swing: Ronnie does this at the end.
  • Wall Bang Her: Brad and Sarah.