What Maisie Knew will be a film that pulls your heart out, pills stamp over it, rx and put it back in your body only to leave you feeling battered. Onata Aprile here as Maisie does a wonderful job making you feel sorry for her. A bright, young little girl observes the moment when her father (Steve Coogan) and mother (Julianne Moore) separate then divorce, without saying much of a word. Susanna, her mother, is a singer who tours, smokes, has erratic possessive behaviour. Beale, her father, is a business man (of sorts) who is the father that pops in and out of his daughter’s life. Both claim to love their daughter very much but is unwilling to sacrifice their careers in order to give the love that Maisie deserves. Her nanny Margo (Joanna Vanderham) takes care of Maisie, as opposed to Maisie’s non existent parents. Even Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgaard) who ends up marrying Susanna has more of an interest in Maisie than Susanna does. Both Margo and Lincoln quickly discover how they’ve been discarded by their spouses but continue to try and be there for Maisie despite making some mistakes.
For anyone who is a parent watching What Maisie Knew, I’m sure that by the end of the film, you’ll never want to leave your child even for the smallest moments. It is a heartbreaking little movie that leaves you flabbergasted by the amount of neglect made by each parent. On the flip side, it’s a wonder how much people can love a child more than the parents themselves. Susanna is emotionally messed up while Beale is unemotionally there. The combination is a poisonous environment to raise a child in, and it is obvious that Maisie is unhappy when she is with either parent. It is telling how Maisie simply speaks with her eyes, never saying anything about the behaviour of her parents, only furthering her own pain by keeping silent.
Of course, this is a pretty extreme case of neglect, but I believe that every family can
relate to parts of Maisie’s family even if we try not to believe that it is a possibility in our own lives – whether it be arguing in front of your child, saying the wrong thing, young children are sponges. Maisie shows that with every wrong action that her parents perform, her pain continues to grow, in addition to her fear and dislike of them. If anything, the film reminds parents that beyond gifts and toys, the most important thing for your child besides providing shelter and food for them is giving them your time. Children are smarter than you think.
What Maisie Knew is a film worthy of your time, if children is a part of your life, and especially if you are a parent. The acting is all around perfect, especially from Moore, who takes on a role that is to be strongly disliked by everyone as the mother who never really tries hard enough to be a good mother. Onata Aprile also stood out for me as a soft spoken sweet girl, never overacting, always underacting but emoting with her eyes. You couldn’t help but like her.
Definitely recommended. Beware: your heartstrings will be massively pulled.
Director: David Siegel, Scott McGehee
Screenplay: Nancy Doyne, Carroll Cartwright
Release Date: May, 2013, on video now
Actors: Onata Aprile, Steve Coogan, Julianne Moore, Alexander Skarsgaard, Joanne Vanderham
Based on the book of the same name by Henry James
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