Thursday 2 June 2011

Devouring Films: Little Children

I'm going to be completely and utterly honest here, and let you know that the only reason I put this film on my Lovefilm list is because of the promise of Patrick Wilson's nudity, something which was very appealing to me, having experienced it in Angels in America previously. I was not disappointed on that front, but I also got a lot more from a film that, while not perfect, was still pretty interesting and engaging, and stayed with me for a lot longer than just the time it took to watch it.

There are essentially two stories portrayed in this film, the main one being that of the boredom and loneliness of being a housewife/househusband in the suburbs, and a subplot focusing on a paedophile who is living in this community. In a way, the more interesting of the two was that of the paedophile, because he was portrayed in quite a sensitive, if not a wholly forgiving way. What I mean is this- he is shown to have remorse for his actions, and also feels terrible for feeling the way that he does, but is unable to stop himself. This doesn't mean that you fall in love with him, or anything like that, but he is a lot more self aware, and aware of how his actions will affect others, than Brad or Sarah, who are essentially selfish, seem to be.

So let's talk about Brad (Wilson) and Sarah (Kate Winslet). Brad is a stay at home dad, ostensibly working on passing the bar, but really sort of just lacking drive and wanting to return to a youth where he was far more successful, presumably without even trying. Sarah is a frustrated stay at home mother, choosing to spend more time with her books than her child, even though, as we are told, she insists on doing all the childcare herself. In this, we discover, Sarah almost resents her daughter, referring to her as 'an unknowable little being', not seeming to realise that the people we all become is dependant on those who care for us and on how much love we each receive. Sarah and Brad's various frustrations, anyway, lead to a companionship and eventual relationship that, I think it is evident from the start, that nobody is going to get anything they want from.

One thing that I found most compelling about the film is how much like a book it is- there is occasional narration which some people might find annoying but which I always appreciate as a bit of extra help with knowing what people are thinking (something that Revolutionary Road, another Kate Winslet film, really could have used). It is also filled with symbolism and all lovely things like that, and made me really very intrigued to find out what the book is like- I'm betting it's pretty awesome though! Another of my favourite things about the film was how effectively it put across the stifling and unaccepting nature of the suburbs (something Revolutionary Road did do well), which is honestly one of my favourite things to discuss, and one of the themes that I most like to watch in films (think American Beauty and Edward Scissorhands, and too many more films to mention!) so this is probably why I did enjoy this film so much.

In a way, nothing of very much consequence happens in this film, the world is not going to change because of its events, but what does happen is completely life changing for the majority of the characters. In a way, this and so much other fiction is so reflective of real life- each of us has our own little events that, while they make no difference to the world at all, make a huge difference to each of us individually, and in this film, we get to see these characters' lives change and dreams grow and shatter by equal measure. This film, in short, is a micro-life in itself, unfolding before our very eyes. And that's part of what makes it so good.

Without wanting to include any spoilers, the ending of the film is something I want to talk about in a sort of roundabout way. There is an instant where you think a certain thing is going to happen, and, by this point, you don't even want it to happen, and then after a series of relatively unlikely events, the opposite happens which I think gives it the best, and most realistic ending. In a way, then, by being slightly deus ex machina-ish, this film has an ending which I think best represents what the characters really wanted, and maybe even needed, and leaves one feeling almost wholly satisfied and sated.

So, I got Little Children for the nudity, stayed for the wholly compelling story. The two hour plus running time felt like no time at all, and I did honestly care for the characters, and what was going to happen to them after everything ended. I would recommend that you get this film just for Wilson's nudity, to be honest, and I think what you'll find apart from that will surprise, delight, and interest you in equal measure.

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