Little Children (film)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Little Children is a 2006 American film written and directed by Todd Field, based on the novel of the same name by Tom Perrotta. It stars Kate Winslet. Its basic plot is an update of the French novel Madame Bovary, set in American suffocating suburbia.


Sarah Pierce (Kate Winslet) is a former campus feminist and academic who is now a reluctant homemaker and mother in an upper-middle class suburb of Boston. Feeling stifled and aimless in her role as a mother, Sarah views her young daughter as a nuisance, and feels out of place around the tedious and judgmental Stepford-like mothers she encounters on a daily basis at the local playground. Her marriage has become loveless, and she even catches her husband masturbating to online pornography with a pair of panties over his face.

Brad Adamson (Patrick Wilson) is a former college football player who's married to Kathy (Jennifer Connelly), a documentary film maker. Emasculated by his wife's successful career, and somewhat embarrassed at his role as a stay-at-home dad (he's failed the Bar Exam twice), Brad is unhappy. Each day he leaves the house with the pretense of going to the library to study for the exam, but in actuality he sits and watches skateboarders at the park. He joins a touch football team at the urge of a friend, Larry (Noah Emmerich).

Sarah and Brad meet on the playground, and Sarah suggests they kiss one another to shock the mothers nearby. Not only do they shock the mothers, but also themselves, as both realize their sudden attraction for each other. They begin to see each other at the pool and start up a friendship, while their children also bond with one another. The sexual attraction between them grows. After a rainstorm, Brad and Sarah have a moment alone at Sarah's home, and their passion finally emerges when they kiss and make love.

Meanwhile, Ronald (Ronnie) James McGorvey (Jackie Earle Haley), who has served a prison sentence for indecent exposure to a minor, has moved back into the neighborhood to live with his mother. Larry, a former police officer, launches a hate campaign against McGorvey, handing out posters, vandalizing his house, harassing, and almost assaulting the man and his mother. It is revealed that Larry is responsible for the accidental shooting of a 13-year-old boy during his time as a policeman. Larry takes out this aggression and anger on Ronnie. Ronnie goes to the neighborhood pool, and the police are called after he is spotted. Ronnie's mother (Phyllis Somerville) sets him up on a date, though he tells her that he doesn't desire women his own age, although he wished he did. The date ends with him masturbating in her car (beside a playground) and threatening her, while she cries helplessly beside him.

Sarah becomes increasingly serious in her affair with Brad, even to the point of staking out his house and becoming tearful at not being a part of his life the way Kathy is. Kathy suggests having Sarah and Lucy over for dinner, as Lucy is a dear companion to her and Brad's son. During the dinner, Kathy picks up on the sexual tension between Sarah and Brad. Kathy enlists her mother to come visit the family and spy on Brad during the day. One night, after scoring the winning touchdown during a late-night football game, Brad is delighted to find Sarah up in the bleachers cheering him on. Brad, finally feeling vibrancy in his life, asks Sarah to run away with him. Sarah agrees, and they agree to meet at the park the next night. A drunk Larry goes to McGorvey's house and further harasses him. When Mrs. McGorvey tries to stop him, Larry pushes her down. She has a heart attack, dying later in the hospital - but she still has enough time to write her son a final message: "Please be a good boy." Upon reading the note, Ronnie is overwhelmed at losing the one person who loved him and smashes several items in the house.

When the time comes, Sarah and Lucy go to the playground to wait for Brad. Brad, meanwhile, has said good-bye to his son and packed up some belongings. He sneaks out of the house past his unsuspecting wife and starts running to the playground, but he stops by the skateboarders, who challenge him into trying just one jump. Brad can't resist, but his one jump ends badly with him falling and blacking out. Sarah leaves Lucy by herself on the swing as she tries to comfort Ronnie, who has run into the playground, crying hysterically. Seeing that her daughter has gone missing, Sarah runs into the street, screaming Lucy's name. She eventually finds and tearfully embraces her daughter. Sarah and Lucy go home and sleep together in a bed. Brad is taken to the hospital and requests his wife be called, while also disposing of his "good-bye" note to her because he "doesn't need it anymore."

Larry comes to the park to meet Ronnie, and apologizes for everything. However, he is horrified to discover that Ronnie has castrated himself so that he can "be a good boy" as his mother wanted. Panicked, yet happy to prove himself a hero, Larry takes Ronnie to the hospital.

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