Writer/director Todd Field followed up In The Bedroom with an equally dark but just as compelling drama, featuring Kate Winslet as Massachusetts mother Sarah who embarks on clandestine afternoon meetings with Brad (Patrick Wilson). Their initially chaste meetings, while their children play at a local park, gives way to a torrid romance, despite their family ties, and engenders a secret that affects the way they see the community around them. That disaffection becomes important as Brad’s friend Larry is suspicious of local outcast Ronnie (Jackie Earle Haley), who lives with his mother and has a complex set of mental health issues relation to women and young girls in particular. How the community treat Ronnie becomes mixed up with Sarah and Brad’s covert affair, and final few scenes of Little Children are intense and powerful as deception leads to consequences. Little Children is melodramatic at times, but the 134 minute length is justified by the eloquent way that Field draws out the mores of the suburban community, and engenders sympathy for Sarah and Brad and their fight against the common denominator of loveless marriages. A woman’s picture in the old style, Little Children is an accomplished adult drama.
Yasmina Reza adapted her own play for Roman Polanski’s overlooked domestic comedy drama from 2011. Bookended by understated scenes depicting their children at play, Carnage never attempt to defuse the theatrical originals of the material, and is all the better for it. Two affluent NYC couples Michael and Penelope (John C Reilly and Jodie Foster) and Alan and Nancy (Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet) are drawn together to smooth over a mild playground assault, but their politeness gives way to an afternoon of explosive argument. All four actors are on top form, and Polanski seems to revel in exploding the myths of polite society as a full on screaming match that provides top-class entertainment.