What Maisie Knew

Sometimes an idea is so stale or done over that even some good acting talent cannot save a film. Divorce. It is a subject which has been done time and time again. Almost as much as films about falling in love. We seem to be very interested in the beginning and ending of relationships, but have no interest in the middle part. That is a discussion for another time, though.

Here we get a film, made in 2012 by co-directors Scott McGehee (The Deep End, Uncertainty) and David Siegel (Bee Season, Suture), set in New York City and telling the tale of a young girl caught in the mess that is her parents’ divorce. How hard divorce is on the kids because adults cannot behave properly is something we have seen before. Nothing new is brought to the table here other than the mother being as unsuitable a parent as the father, which is not the typical.

Beale (Steve Coogan – Despicable Me 3, The Secret Lives of Pets) and Susanna (Julianne Moore – Still Alice, Far From Heaven) are going through a divorce and it is definitely not amicable. Their young daughter Maisie (Onata Aprile – appeared in episodes of Boardwalk Empire and Chicago P.D.) is caught in the dysfunctional middle.

Even when both of these negligent adults find new partners that seem to really care for Maisie, Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgard – The Legend of Tarzan, Long Shot) and Margo (Joanne Vanderham – Blackwood, Richard III), they each find a way to mess it up. Once again with no regard for their young daughter and what effect all this will have on her. They are both totally self involved.

What evolves out of this mess is Lincoln and Margo and Maisie becoming a veritable family. One in which they all care for the other members. Something that is rather new for Maisie. Quasi stability.

A smaller more intimate film which was never going to appeal to a large number of people. Despite the fact that it has some star appeal going for it in Moore and Skarsgard.

The most interesting aspect of the film is that it is mostly told from the seven-year-old’s point of view. What freshness there is in the film is derived from that rather unique perspective.

Not an easy film to watch as the two people most responsible for Maisie don’t seem to give a poop about her or how their infantile behaviour is affecting her. They are too wrapped up in their own lives/desires.

While all the adults do a decent job here, the best acting comes from the youngest member of the cast. Aprile really conveys the emotions being felt and thoughts of the young person involved in this mess. You cannot help but have your heart break over what she is going through to no fault of her own. While she does not have a ton of dialogue all that is conveyed through her eyes and facial expression. Impressive coming from a young actress who could not really appreciate all the nuances of the story or what he character was going through.

You can stream the film on Filmrise.

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