Film Review: What Maisie Knew

Based on a contemporary interpretation of the classic Henry James novel (of the same name), and set in present-day New York, ‘What Maisie Knew’ is an honest and realistic portrayal of a bitter divorce told from the perspective of a six-year-old girl.

Filmmakers Scott McGehee’s and David Siegel’s fresh approach on the matter see Maisie (Onata Aprile) struggle to attempt to find security between her antagonistic rock-star mother, Susanna (Julianne Moore) and her estranged art-dealing father, Beale (Steve Coogan) – both of whom attempt to orchestrate their lives to gain custody of Maisie as a way to wound the other.

Although at times difficult to watch, it is the effortless moments with Maisie and her step-parents, Margo and Lincoln (Joanna Vanderham and Alexander Skarsgard), that make the film compelling. Early on in the piece, it is obvious that Maisie’s biological parents have no real interest in her wellbeing and you can’t help but champion the unexpected heroes in Margo and Lincoln who’re guiding Maisie to safety. Skarsgard here works against the archetype we have come to expect from his work in HBO series ‘True Blood’, presenting Lincoln as a warm father figure that is wonderful to watch on screen.

Without such a strong ensemble cast, ‘What Maisie Knew’ could easily buckle under the weight of the subject matter, but with such considered performances from the actors this film really flies; Onata Aprile is the real star here though. It’s her light visual nuances that direct the changeable relationships. Her strength and optimism amongst the chaos that make Maisie loveable and an immediate audience favourite.

‘What Maisie Knew’ is a story that gives hope in times of turmoil. You can’t help but watch this film and reflect on the relationships both past and present in your own life. A fantastic cast on an unexpected journey.



Review by Jack Colwell