Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Powerful and Moving
What I’ve always been interested in seeing in film is a bold change in perspective. You can have the same movie done the same way, but there are infinite possibilities to how it is viewed. Predictable films and movie tropes all basically say the same thing: we have seen this all before. What if, however, you saw the same thing done very differently? A divorcing couple going through the turmoil of child custody…oh have we seen this premise before. Now, take the same film, and look at everything through the eyes of a child…now you have What Maisie Knew, and what a precious film this is.
Maisie (Onata Aprile) is a young girl going through what many children go through nowadays, the process of divorce and child custody battles. Things get confusing, of course, when her father obtains a new wife, and her mother gets a new husband in defense. All to better their legal chances for sole custody. Maisie is a bit apprehensive at first, welcoming these strangers into her life, but her friendly personality warmed up to them fast, and before you know it, she grows to love her step-parents while her parents continue to bicker.
The advantage we have over the characters is a third-person perspective. We understand everything that is going on, but we also know that Maisie doesn’t. All that Maisie “knows” is her parents are fighting, now her father has a wife, now her mother has a husband, and everyone is arguing, but everyone seems to love her at the same time. It has to be confusing for young Maisie. We can see how much this girl is getting ignored and tossed around like a hot potato and it’s heartbreaking because we just want to see stability in this young girl’s life. The direction, pacing, and general knowledge of life makes everything completely unpredictable. In life, crap does happen, and happens often; this movie makes sure to present constant lifelike realism through a child’s perspective.
What Maisie Knew presents a realistic look at the unyielding and destructive pride parents can have with their children. The mentality that I, and only I, am the best thing for my child melts kids’ brains and leaves them emotionally handicapped for a good portion of their lives. It’s a disgusting and unfortunate fact of life, and it is something we need be become more aware of. Children need both a mother and father figure in their lives, and Maisie’s biological parents are so tied up with themselves that her step-parents end up being the more loving and supportive parental figures in her life. For that reason alone, this movie had brilliant writing. It takes a lot for a movie to recognize the true “best interest of a child”, and what is stereotypically the biological parents in a movie like this, this had an undeniable look at what a kid really needs. Blood doesn’t automatically mean family. It’s just unbelievable to think this kind of thing happens often from sheer naivety of uncaring and selfish parents.
This movie struck home. For reasons I won’t dive into now, I personally know the dangerous properties of pride, and what it can do to a person. I know that I had to learn to man up and admit defeat in order to better the life of someone other than myself. It was the hardest thing in the world, so in a way, I understand the parents in the film. The difference is pride swallowed them whole, which affected their daughter. That part was ugly, but the relationship Maisie develops with her step-mother and step-father is finally a story that wasn’t seeking an “evil” tag to go along with the “step”. It was beautiful, and something that we can all learn a lesson from.
As for the acting, there are no words. Onata Aprile did an unbelievably amazing job as Maisie. Julianne Moore as her mother and Steve Coogan as her father were 100% believable in their roles. As were the step-parents, including a surprising performance by True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgård. Half of what made this movie was the acting. Also, it goes without saying that the movie also looked very well visually speaking.
I’m not the biggest fan of coming-of-age films because there’s not much of a conflict or plot. The conflict isn’t Maisie’s, she’s just kind of forced to be victim to someone else’s conflict, which is why this film is so special. It had a lot of respect and acknowledgment towards the unspoken and inner turmoil kids go through in troubling issues like this. As a movie, I think a lot was done right, but I appreciate this as more of a film exposing things we need to pay more attention to. This is an important flick, in all honesty.
I would strongly suggest to any parents with young kids thinking about divorce. Watch this film. You have all heard of how it affects kids, but hearing about it is totally a different thing than witnessing it. So please do.