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.
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.
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 vulnerabilities and temptations.
This film provides examples of:
- 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.
- A Date with Rosie Palms: Sarah walks in on Richard doing this. Later, Ronnie does this on his date.
- 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 lease on him.
- Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Ronald James McGorvey, who loves his mother and whose mother loves him.
- 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 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.
- MadonnaWhore 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Spiritual Successor: To American Beauty.
- 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.
- Your Cheating Heart: A main focus of the movie.