Tuesday, 10 September 2013

What Maisie Knew: Movie Review

What Maisie Knew: Movie Review


Cast: Julianne Moore, Alexander Skarsgaard, Steve Coogan, Onata Aprile, Joanne Vanderham
Director: Scott MCGehee, David Siegel

Based on the book by Henry James, but re-versioned for the cinema and modern day, What Maisie Knew is a powerfully perfect piece of film. 

Told from the point of view of Onata Aprile's young Maisie, it's the story of a child, pulled from pillar to post by divorcing parents. She's a rock star Susanne (Julianne Moore) and he's Beale, an art dealer (Steve Coogan) and their continual batting back and forth of Maisie, under proclamations of love is heartbreaking to bear.

When the pair inevitably split up, both get new partners - Beale takes the nanny Margo with him and ends up marrying her and Susanne winds up marrying on a whim to Alexander Skarsgard's Lincoln. But poor Maisie ends up going back and forth, taken in by various promises and let down by all prospective parents but never losing her prospective enthusiasm and hoping for the possibility of love.

When she starts to bond with the laid back Lincoln, a calming influence in her life, Susanne's insecurities come to the fore and things threaten to boil over which could have emotional consequences for Maisie.

What Maisie Knew is one of the finest dramas I've seen all year.


Haunting and emotionally gripping, the slow burning heart of this film is anchored by a wonderful performance from Onata Aprile's Maisie; a perfect encapsulation of a young soul lost in life already and who never loses optimism. Neglected by her parents, and loved really only by Margo initially, she saves the joy for the nanny and bonds subtly and in a heartfelt manner with Skarsgard's Lincoln. The duo have a wonderful chemistry and the relationship of protector and charge is beautifully played with adorable soul and simple sensitivity by both Skarsgard and Aprile. Underplayed and never exploited, it's a natural relationship which shines in among Coogan and Moore's utter loathsome selfish behaviour.

If anything, What Maisie Knew belongs to Skarsgard and Aprile - and while the story plays out exactly how you may expect, it's only because you're hoping for a perfect resolution for Maisie, a kind of wishful fulfilment which we perhaps seek for the young in our own lives. There's a tremendous poignancy here which proves difficult to ignore.

Utterly affecting and ultimately rewarding, What Maisie Knew is essential viewing.


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