Movie Review – What Maisie Knew (2012)

Directors: Scott McGehee & David Siegel

Stars: Onata Aprile, Julianne Moore, Steve Coogan, Alexander Skarsgard, Joanna Vanderham

Told from the point of view of a six year old, What Maisie Knew begins with a break up of her two narcissistic parents and the subsequent custody battle. Maisie is used as a pawn, but both parents let her down. The story also involves Margo, the ex-babysitter who is now living with the father, and Lincoln, who the mother dates.

This film is about parenthood and the idea that just because you are biologically a parent doesn’t mean you necessarily deserve to be, and sometimes sharing blood is not enough. Coogan and Moore are truly despicable and it’s horrible to see how Maisie is treated, but the directors do a good job of keeping the mood of the film fairly light, as although there are dramatic moments it does not descend into misery porn, which it easily could have done.

For me, Vanderham stole the show as Joanna, and the inclusion of her and Lincoln shows how you can become attached to children by spending a lot of time with them, and how easy it is for bonds to form. Lincoln is an interesting character as he is first introduced as a drug user, yet turns out to be dependable. The scenes between him and Maisie were really sweet, and the film manages to balance out the different tones and emotions.

This is one that should be getting more attention. It’s high quality in every aspect of the film, and the subject matter is one that’s not used that often (at least not for the entire film, usually child custody battles only take up a small part).

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