Verdict: 4 / 5
When you read the blurb and it states “this is a movie about a child going through a divorce” it’s an immediate turn off. Unless you are actually curious, or researching the effects of divorced parents on kids, you most likely wouldn’t pick this as an evening of R&R.
If you can make if through the first 30 minutes you will find that this is a surprisingly moving film. Once you fall in love with Maisie, and start seeing the larger, more complex world she lives in you start to automatically be protective of her. You keep watching because you want to make sure she is okay. You care about her.
What Maisie Knew, is an adaption of the 1897 Novel of the same name published by Henry James that centred on a sensitive daughter and a divorced couple who were irresponsible parents. This adaption has been updated to modern-day New York City and follows the journey of Maisie (Onata Aprile) and her experiences living between her mother, Susanna (Julianne Moore), and father, Beale (Steve Coogan). Also playing a large part in her welfare and care is her au pair, Margo (Joanna Vanderham) and her step-father, Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgard).
There are many aspects of this film that bring this simple storyline to life in the most dramatic way. The detailed production design of Maisie’s multiple rooms and multiple houses is very beautiful. The sensitivity of the direction and cinematography made the story real and captivating, the multiple scenes exposing all aspects of Maisie’s life gave the film a raw, meaningful and sensitive profoundness in what was actually a plain, short and simple storyline. Moore vividly depicts a pushy, childish and self-absorbed rock and roll musician who is extremely jealous of anyone holding Maisie’s attention when she wants it. Through all the mudslinging, manipulation and abandonment Aprile’s acting was natural, real and innocent, it almost wasn’t acting at all but simply a young child’s real and honest reaction to the moments and situations around her. But it was the sweetness and sincerity of the young couple who are left to care for Maisie, their pureness, love and sincere care for her made the film.
This is a really beautiful movie, exposing the selfishness and self-absorbed parents and the pure selfless love of two very unsuspecting individuals caught in the middle. You will most likely also curse her parents and then store the warning in your subconscious to never let this story be yours.