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 in suburban Connecticut.
Echoes of "Madame Bovary" in the American suburbs. Sarah's in a loveless marriage to an advertising executive, long days with her young daughter at the park and the pool, wanting more. Brad is an immature househusband, married to a flinty documentary filmmaker. Ronnie is just out of prison - two years for indecent exposure to a minor - living with his elderly mother, May; Larry is a retired cop, fixated on driving Ronnie away. Sarah and Brad connect, a respite of adult companionship at the pool. Ronnie and Larry have their demons. Brad should be studying for the bar; Larry misses his job; Ronnie's mom thinks he needs a girlfriend. Sarah longs to refuse to be trapped in an unhappy life. Where can these tangled paths lead? Written by
I had the pleasure of seeing the premiere of "Little Children" at Telluride. The incomprable Mr.Feild hid behind the curtain near the concession at the back of the Nugget Theater wringing his hands, looking a wee bit nauseous. It was all very endearing. The film is superb. Amongst the American fare it tops my list of films fromTelluride, next to the incomprable 'Day Night Day Night' directed by Julia Loktev.
For me, it was all about Jackie Earle Haley. Haley sneaks onto the screen 45 minutes into the narrative bursting the happy bubble of familiar ups and downs of married with children life. The result unnerving edgy tension that could be cut with a knife. Haley's performance is vulnerable, awkward and possibly the strongest male role to light up the screen this year. Haley deserves accolades, praise and loads of attention. He's been a favorite darling of mine for ages...something I had the good fortune of recounting to Feild after the screening.
Feild provides many questions and very few answers. Haley's character may have been released from jail for indecent exposure to a minor, yet Feild does a delicate balancing act without faltering on the side of "good guy/ bad guy". This is NOT a film about pedophiles. This is a film about faults, judgments, weaknesses that consume, chew one up and spits you out again. And in the end the entire paradigm of suburban life has been twisted, shaken, pushed and pulled.
There is tragedy, openness, shifts, that do not add up to ultimate conclusions. This complex tale weaves passion, disillusionment, love, lust, desire, ambivalence. But most importantly, the tender web of Mother-Child relations, WITHOUT ever vilifying Mother. Feild breaks from this poisonous, obsessive, castrating, oedipal mother-subject paradigm and addresses the people who float in and out of crisis above and beyond being tied to their social roles and traditional moral codes.
Winslet encapsulates the awkward intellectual mom, who loves her daughter, but has very very human ambivalence towards this 24/7 duty of unconditional love/acceptance and never ending giving. Finally, she decides to give something back to herself, by playing out a torrid love affair with the Prom King (Patrick Wilson) another character ripe with flaws and exudes humanness.
This should win many many many accolades for 2006, it's a rare stand out. A powerful disturbingly familiar tale played out eloquently, and held at benign distance via the brilliant use of odd narration. It's a strange convention, but Feild masters this as he skewers and satirizes and describes it's subjects with authority. The narration was pleasantly reminiscent of "Fishing with John", often obvious, but nicely pushing the plot along with often more than a hint of humor. The serious tone of the narrator serves to punctuate the utter ridiculous paradox of the banalities of being 'married with children' and having a flashy adventurous love affair in and around the locations of everyday stay at home summer existence; the park, the pool, the evening football game.
The Affair never reveals itself as the be-all-and-end-all, answer to disillusionment and sadness of suburban middle class marriage. Nor, the cause-effect that sets the plot in motion. Even more satisfyingly, the affair does not legitimate the happy normative narrative ending.
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