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Little Children


Stars: Kate Winslet, Patrick Wilson, Jennifer Connelly, Gregg Edelman, Noah Emmerich, Jackie Earle Haley, Phyllis Somerville

Director: Todd Field

Rather long and with an ending that falls down in the detail, Field's film of small-town American life still has moments of great emotional power.

Sarah (Winslet) is unhappily married to a husband (Edelman) who's into porn on the Internet. Brad (Wilson) is frustrated in bed because his wife (Connelly) still insists on their three-year-old son sleeping between them.

Brad and Sarah meet at a local swing park and, on an impulse, she kisses him to wind up the other 'park mothers' who have dared her to get his phone number. Meetings at the town pool culminate in passionate love-making that echoes the affair in Madame Bovary, a book Sarah is discussing with her reading circle.

There are other story threads: Brad joins a local football squad at the behest of Larry (Emmerich), an ex-cop drowning in memories of the day he shot an innocent teenager waving an airgun. Short-fused Larry's current target is a convicted paedophile (Haley), who has moved into town to be cared for by his elderly widowed mother (Somerville).

Putists will pounce on the point that, although Brad supposedly doesn't approve of the thickness of Sarah's eyebrows, his own wife's are the thickest in town, but the film's triumphs and tragedies are largely convincingly drawn, and the acting is steady throughout - Winslet's reassessment of Madame Bovary providing the outstanding moment in this slightly uncomfortable mix of dark comedy and melodramatic tragedy.

David Quinlan

USA 2006. UK Distributor: Entertainment. Colour by Du Art.
137 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 30 Oct 2006