CHANNEL 4 4SEVEN E4 MORE4 FILM4 4MUSIC 4oD

Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • 15
  • Drama
  • 2012
  • 99 mins

What Maisie Knew

Film4

Synopsis

Starring Julianne Moore, Alexander Skarsgard and Steve Coogan, What Maisie Knew examines a messy custody battle from the perspective of a six year old in a modern take on a Henry James’ 1897 novel of the same name.

About

As her self-centred parents fight each other for custody, Maisie (Onata Aprile) is passed from parent to parent and partner to partner in an endless stream of phonecalls, appointments and taxis. Her father (Steve Coogan) moves in with the nanny Margo (Joanna Vanderham), while Maisie’s mother (Julianne Moore) marries a young, laidback bartender Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgard) in an attempt at one-upmanship. Though Maisie’s parents fight viciously over her, they forget her at school or at each other’s homes and when they do spend the time with their daughter they don’t know what to do with her.

Maisie is a self-contained child who is able to negotiate modern day Manhattan; we see her paying the pizza delivery man when her parents are too occupied with arguing to do it – and she doesn’t forget a tip. She watches everything with the look of knowing and not knowing, she’s a child confused, upset and sometimes bored by the adults around her and the camera, rightly, remains focused on her as the adults argue around her. Sometimes Maisie expresses a truth the adults can’t and sometimes, heartbreakingly, she makes excuses for them.

Julianne Moore is fantastic as Maisie’s brittle, angry musician mother who sits around at parties watching videos of herself and talks to her daughter as though they are both teenagers. She’s possessive, needy and jealous, even of her daughter’s affections and is so terrified of the connection that develops between her new partner and her daughter that she rails against it as nothing more than a plot. Maisie’s father, Beale (Steve Coogan), is distant, tells jokes she doesn’t understand and disappears overseas into his work. Both of them are too busy and too self-centred to put Maisie first.

It is the partners, rather than the parents, who are able to connect with Maisie. Lincoln (Skarsgard), handsome and good with kids, ticks a few too many boxes to be believable. Having said that, Skarsgard has brilliant chemistry with Aprile and is able to portray their growing relationship with ease, particularly in a montage in which the pair treat the city like their own personal playground. Music is held back for these moments, with great effect, creating a stark contrast with the isolating time she spends with her parents. In another touching scene, Maisie is given a seedling to nurture at school and it is the green shoots of something tender and real that we hope will win out.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Julianne Moore, Steve Coogan
  • Director: David Siegel, Scott McGehee
  • Screen Writer: Carroll Cartwright
  • Writer (Book): Henry James
  • Producer: Daniela Lundberg Taplin, William Teitler, Charles Weinstock
  • Photographer: Giles Nuttgens

In a nutshell

With brilliant performances from Julianne Moore and newcomer Onata Aprile, this touching portrayal of a marriage breakdown is at times an uncomfortable watch as it focuses its attentions on the child stuck in the middle.

by Sarah Hunt

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4 Million Dollar Arm

    Million Dollar Arm

    Struggling sports agent J.B. Bernstein (Jon Hamm) has the idea to launch a reality TV contest in India that offers contestants the chance to land a Major League Baseball contract

  • Film4

    Let's Be Cops

    Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. star in a buddy cop-impersonator comedy

  • Film4 Half Nelson

    Half Nelson on Film4

    Ryan Golsing stars as an inner-city high school teacher struggling with a drug problem in Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden's Oscar-nominated drama on Film4

  • Film4 Rust and Bone

    Rust And Bone on Film4

    Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts star in Jacques Audiard's romantic drama on Film4

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register

Tweets @Film4

  • We have a Sunday afternoon treat coming up next at 4.40pm: Oscar-winning musical The King & I, starring Deborah Kerr & Yul Brynner .

  • "I always tell the mountains my problems. They are a good listener." At 1pm, Felicity Jones goes off-piste in ski lodge romcom Chalet Girl.

  • RT @FilmTVPost: Chalet Girl is on @Film4 at 1pm. A fun teen romcom, with some great British comedy actors in supporting roles.

  • Ghost won 2 Oscars back in 1991: Best Supporting Actress (Whoopi Goldberg) and Best Original Screenplay. #oscartally

  • @KevinMarkGray @Channel4 We'll let you off this time!

Share