Maisie is a sweet, sensitive six-year-old girl stuck in the middle of a divorce between her rock star mother and art dealer father. Too busy and self-involved to care for her properly, both parents leave their daughter in the care of their new, younger partners. But when Maisie's bond with this new pair begins to grow, her parents must face some difficult home truths...
Thoughtful portrait of a child
- What Maisie Knew review by DJ
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Contempoary twist to the Henry James tale which worked very well indeed. Convincing performances by harrassed rock-star roadie Julianne Moore and reluctant father Steve Coogan. The quiet performance of Alexander Skarsgard, a child dumped by her parents while they chase their careers, is truly remarkable, expressive and with a great deal of charm.
Divorce creates problems for everyone involved, the parents, friends and most of all the children, the ones old enough to understand and those who aren’t and the ones in between. This is a film about the latter category, the girl who doesn’t quite understand her parents and why her idea of family keeps having to change.
Telling the story of Maisie (Onata Aprile), a girl used to wealth and luxury but living a life of naive optimism, hoping her parents Susanna (Julianne Moore) and Beale (Steve Coogan) will stop fighting and acknowledge her. However when the couple suddenly split, Maisie finds herself in houses with two new figures, her new stepmother Margo (Joanna Vanderham) and her new stepfather Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgard).
Maisie’s journey from confusion and fear to something better is brutal as for the first time we really see divorce from a childs perspective and the negative impact it can have. To say Maisie is mistreated and handled like property is putting it lightly, her parents use her as leverage and wave her around like a toy in their own personal war, a sickening thing to see, something made more palatable by the nuanced performances by Coogan and Moore, an unlikely pairing that works perfectly. Their vampiric tendencies to suck the life from Maisie’s life makes for a devastating but engrossing picture.
The filming gives a feeling of improvisation to all the scenes as we see these characters meld into different family units seamlessly. Aprile is astounding as Maisie, a child she infuses with charm and a playful belief in the expectation of family. While the film revolves around a family in strife and transition, the film really becomes about the ever changing idea of the modern family and the fairy tale aspects of the simplicity of a loving family, something Maisie doesn’t seem to understand when she finally gets it.
A labour of love, What Maisie Knew is terrific filmmaking with a relevant and gut wrenching story that saves judgement and depicts its flawed characters with style as to never villainize any of them despite some of the wicked things Susanna and Beale do. Gentle and ever so slightly cute, Maisie is one kid you hope gets everything she wants, especially after this terrific journey