From the Producers of ‘The Kids are Alright’, ‘What Maisie Knew’ offers a bold, brave and insightful look at life through the eyes of a child. We enter six year old Maisie’s world at the level she encounters it, full of love, complexity and contradiction.
Based on the novel by Henry James, Co-Directors Scott McGehee and David Siegels’ approach to this well-observed script serves to highlight the different realities adults and children live in. With plenty of low camera angles and exquisite use of time lag between adult questions and child responses, there is ‘time’ for our internal dialogue to surface and come up with our own conclusions, in response to the drama that unravels before us.
We are given a bird’s eye view of what often goes unnoticed when two worlds collide and children become privy to adult conversations and interactions that are way beyond their capacity to comprehend. When unaware adults use children to meet their unmet needs and satisfy their unfulfilled dreams, we are asking children to interpret and integrate beyond their means, which causes confusion, apprehension and discord, akin to putting a child on a roller-coaster and demanding they take a ride that endangers their emotional development, safety and equilibrium. In this arena, we create a playing field that becomes ‘each man for himself’ and ‘survival of the fittest.‘
The brilliance of this movie is in it’s choice to deliver the story without judgement, giving the viewer an opportunity to travel the road of each character and arrive at a place of compassion and understanding from a higher perspective. Behaviours that could easily be viewed as selfish and abusive are portrayed through a lens of compassion, shining light on everyone’s innocence and delivering a convincing argument that each character is doing their best.
‘What Maisie Knew’ brings home a tender story of the heart, skillfully portraying the natural impulse of children to forgive, embrace and accept ‘what is’ and respond to the innate desire to bring people together and connect with the innocence in everyone.
The performances are breathtakingly accurate. Julianne Moore as Susanna is powerful and disturbingly convincing as the rock star mother, above all striving to fulfill her own dreams, while Steve Coogan as Maisie’s father Beale, treads a fine line of living in the world of his child and still behaving like one. Alexander Skarsgard and Joanna Vanderham as the respective partners Lincoln and Margo, offer compelling generosity of spirit. Onata Aprile as Maisie is definitely a stand out and I suspect we have not seen the last of her.
If you are married, single, a parent or step-parent; have ever had a child or ever been a child, then this movie is for you. For our world to become the place our children need it to, the message delivered in this movie is one we all need to hear and can all benefit from.
© Patricia Herreen 2013