Even when Todd Field’s characters have insidious qualities, he refrains from judging them. Even at their worst, his characters are not simply black and white: they exist firmly in the gray. Their actions always come from a complex place. For her role in “TÁR,” Cate Blanchett tells The Guardian, “It’s very easy to say she is monstrous, but the film is much more ambiguous than that.” Although her character abuses her power in many ways, she is the product of a toxic system that allows her to do so.
The characters in “Little Children” are incredibly immature and self-absorbed adults, such as a husband addicted to pornography and a mother who disdains her young daughter. One of the more complicated characters is Ronnie, a registered sex offender who was in jail for indecent exposure to a minor. Field purposefully conceals the truth about Ronnie’s past, and Jackie Earle Haley’s vulnerable performance deepens this ambiguity.
Ronnie is very unwell, even masturbating next to his date while looking at a children’s playground. At the same time, he understands he has problems and wants to be a good son for his elderly mother. Field comments in Filmmaker Magazine on how he offers no simplistic answers for this aberrant character:
“Yeah, he has some issues. But even in that scene, we don’t really know what those issues are, and that was very important. It was an important thing that we never know for sure what he has or hasn’t done. The community makes up its mind … people at dinner parties use him as a conversation topic … and the audience can make up their own minds too.
None of this excuses Ronnie’s actions, but we see him as more than someone who committed a crime.