Little Children

Film
NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH Wilson, left, and Winslet keep up appearances.
NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH Wilson, left, and Winslet keep up appearances.

Time Out says

The movies have taught us that the suburbs are nothing but a bastion of social repression, something that Todd Field’s adaptation of Tom Perrotta’s novel does nothing to counteract. In the film’s Boston community, a cabal of bitchy mommies, cackling like Macbeth’s witches, rules over the local playground. The appearance of a pedophile (Haley) at the public pool may be enough to cause instant pandemonium, but folks tend to keep their emotions bottled and buried. Everyone, that is, except an estranged mother (Winslet) and a stay-at-home father (Wilson), whose bonding over frustration leads to animalistic sex in the laundry room. Promises of a new life far from the madding tract-housed crowd are exchanged; like the trains that constantly rumble in the distance, you can see the endgame coming from miles away.

As with Field’s impressive debut, In the Bedroom, this downbeat drama benefits from his sense of directorial decorum, though the mix of tony filmmaking and tawdry elements suggests a dry run for Desperate Art-Housewives. The digs at ’burb banality involve propping certain villains up just to knock them down, and some choices are slightly off: Having a sonorously voiced narrator offer up ironic counterpoints is fine, but having him explain the obvious (“Watching the skaters, Brad felt like he was once one of them”) isn’t. The performances, however, make up for a lot, as Winslet turns a litany of furtive glances into a characterization with depth, and Haley’s pathologically tragic neighborhood Nosferatu keeps his subplot from becoming a vestigial tail. (Opens Fri; Click here for venues.) — David Fear

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