Little Children (2006)
After seeing the explosive In the Bedroom a few years ago, I was convinced that with first-time director Todd Field, the business was given a special talent. I still have that conviction, even though Little Children is a step back for him. However, he still is daring, insightful and presents human drama in an absorbing and unique fashion. At its best, Little Children sucks you in and shakes you. There are a few segments here that work brilliantly (including the Noah Emmerich character). But not everything works equally well, such as a lot of the depiction of the pedophile "sex-offender". What is interesting, is the angle Field deploys, wanting to awake the ambivalence in the viewer when it comes to Ronnie, while at the same time lashing out a bit at the way society treats his kind. However, the character in itself isn't written well enough. His staged action and dialogue takes away his credibility. It is nice to see Jackie Earl Haley (Breaking Away) back on the screen, but he hasn't got the insight to make Ronnie into anything else than a stereotype (naturally, the Academy won't recognize this - they'll just applaud the courage).
Field also encounters problems trying to balance his serious drama with his at times misplaced comedy - often carried by the indiscrete narrator, sounding like a remnant from unsuccessfully breeding a 50s sci-fi with romantic pulp literature. This forces many changes in tone and tune that more often than not feel out of place and unsubtle. Little Children doesn't flow as easily and naturally as In the Bedroom - which is the biggest difference between the two. They both portray intimate, tragic characters and offer brilliant drama. There's power in this story as well, but by the end of an exhausting two hours, you're happy to walk out of the cinema being able to conclude that not every single person you meet is dysfunctional.