What Maisie Knew, directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel, is a modern film adaption of the 1897 Henry James novel of the same name. The film is a fresh and engaging take on a child’s view of divorce and centres on Maisie, a young girl caught in the middle of a bitter custody battle between her unmarried parents. Her mother, Susanna is a demanding, self-centred rock and roll icon while her father, Beale is a charming yet precarious art dealer. Following their separation, she becomes the bargaining chip in the dispute between her two parents while their new partners, Lincoln (a happy-go-lucky bartender and member of Susanna’s band) and Margo (Maisie’s nanny), unwillingly enter into a game neither wishes to be apart of.
Continuously shuttled back and forth, Maisie, a calm, silent and precocious observer, begins to understand the true selfish and irresponsible nature of her reckless parents. Having spent more time with her new surrogate parents than with her own and following the inevitable breakdown of these relationships, she toys with the possibility of constructing for herself a whole new family.
What Maisie Knew features a small yet compelling cast, starring well known’s such as Julianne Moore (The Kids Are Alright; Crazy, Stupid, Love.) as Susanna, Steve Coogan (Ruby Sparks, Our Idiot Brother) as Beale and Alexander Skarsgård (True Blood) as Lincoln. Rounding out the main cast are two newcomers both making their feature film debut, Scottish-born actress Joanna Vanderham as Margo and 7-year-old Onata Aprile as Maisie.
Each of the cast is superb in their roles, with Moore’s portrayal of Susanna and Coogan’s of Beale a highlight of the film. However, the real understated performances came from Alexander Skarsgård (girls, don’t be too surprised if you fall in love with him) and Onata Aprile, a rare find amongst a saturated pool of young talent. Tied in with a journey that took me all throughout the lesser known parts of New York City, it was a real joy to watch the development of Lincoln and Maisie’s relationship as it transpired from that of strangers to one of a real, mutual love on a level she was unable to get from either of her parents.
Every year, nestled among the big-budget blockbusters, the fan-base franchises and the prequels/sequels lays a little hidden gem. It goes back to the basics of what a good film is all about – a beautiful and original story with an incredible cast, good direction and a carefully crafted score. What Maisie Knew is this year’s diamond in the rough.
What Maisie Knew is now showing in select cinemas around the country.
Original article can be found here