Maybe my favorite movie of 2006, Little Children , directed by Todd Field (the wonderful In the Bedroom ), manages to be both a funny and satirical send up of American life, as well as a sad tale underlining the excruciating alienation of modern days.

Set in suburbia, the “children” of the title represent both actual kids and more importantly, the parents – terrifically played by Kate Winslet, Jennifer Connelly and Patrick Wilson – who cannot seem to grow up and face the lives they have created for themselves.

Their jobs, spouses, friends and especially their offspring overwhelm them into apathy. Stuck in a rather cookie-cutter world they feel disappointed by, the characters struggle to feel much of anything.

The story unfolds in a playground with perfect moms providing perfect snacks for their nauseatingly perfect children. Sarah, played by Winslet, has not even managed to bring a snack! The horrified looks on the faces of the other mothers offers a kind of synecdoche into a whole world of extreme expectations around useless minutiae.

Sarah manages to look sane in her flaky disregard of protocol even though she borders on being a neglectful parent simply because the quotidian tasks of the day have gotten so magnified – and we're not even talking about what people go through to get their kids into preschool.

Just when Sarah looks about to burst, a hot, young father (Wilson) turns up at the swing set. The other women, beside themselves with boredom, dub him the “Prom King” and ogle him from afar. Sarah, much to their chagrin, walks right up to Brad and talks to him. Almost like a tween on a dare, Sarah exhilarates in the other women's gaze and approbation tinged with envy.

The affair that ensues feels sneaky, dirty and fun, like a ribald weekend while the parents are out of town. But unlike 12-year-olds, Sarah and Brad are adults with responsibilities that keep sneaking up on them, not to mention consciences.

Little Children offers up the dilemma of responsibility versus freedom that plagues Americans in all aspects of our lives from paper or plastic to the war in Iraq. Never has so much seemed to end up looking like so little.

Grade: A