I understand why this film was nominated for three academy awards. As I’ve watched more and more highly acclaimed films, I’ve realized that sometimes a story is difficult to tell, but its telling only invigorates the reader, and its message transcends entertainment and achieves the sublime.
I say sublime because from a distance the horror of what the characters go through is palpable, but their drudgery causes some kind of admiration and respect. It may even be that we somehow relate to their experience. Or maybe it’s that we pray we never do.
Little Children brings together a sexual deviant, a depressed stay at home husband, and a modern Madam Bovary who happens to have an English PhD. Brad lives under the quiet condescension of his wife while preparing to take the BAR exam for a third time. Sarah’s husband couldn’t care less about her, and she feels trapped with her daughter and a dead end life. The neighborhood is enthralled with its new target: Ronnie, a sexual predator who was just released from jail. Somehow their lives intertwine. Sarah and Brad begin regularly attending the pool, seemingly for their children. They begin a passionate affair as they start secretly living out a dream escape. Can they trick themselves into believing so strongly that dream that they give up everything else?
The movie really weaves itself around playgrounds and swimming pools and strollers, but it’s about the little children we all are. Children can’t face the truth about themselves and their situations. They are innocent in a way, and totally ignorant in another. Eventually children must grow up. We understand maturity to take place during teenage years, but maybe for some of us it takes place much later. It isn’t the passage of time, but certain events and more importantly certain decisions that cause us to grow up.
In one scene, Sarah attends a book club with her neighbor on the classic Madame Bovary. They discuss the protagonist’s lavish and lascivious lifestyle. Sarah pontificates about how Madame Bovary is a feminist hero, not because she was sleeping around, but because she wouldn’t accept her fate of living in a box. She saw herself as Madame Bovary, and though it was true to admire those who don’t accept their fate, maybe she was deluding herself into thinking she could do the same thing and get away with it.
Ronnie’s mom told her son that each person has a fatal flaw that keeps them from getting what they want. It was obvious what Ronnie’s was, but he didn’t care to address it until it was too late. A wise friend of mine once said, “Once they realize the reward is greater than the cost, then they’ll pay.” Most of the time, it ends up being too late that we make the changes we need to.
At the end of the movie, Brad tries to jump a concrete staircase on a skateboard. He had watched with envy while the punk kids had rode around the skate park for an entire summer, and wished he was young again. Then he suddenly got his chance. Only he ended up with a concussion and a trip to the hospital. Thankfully he woke up, and realized he wasn’t 18 anymore. When you see the movie, you’ll see what a childish decision he was about to make, but realized how foolish it would have been.
What I enjoyed about this movie, although quite dark and dealing with some material we would normally avoid, was the hope it gives all of us. Little Children make mistakes, and I think that’s what Director Todd Field was trying to say. All of the characters were little children, and when kids make mistakes, they are forgiven. They try again.
If you enjoyed my review, you’d probably enjoy my roommates bitchin blog, found here