What Maisie Knew has the difficult task of capturing the disintegration of the family unit as seen through the eyes of the child at the centre of it. Julianne Moore uncharacteristically plays a dislikable character in the figure of the mother – a semi washed-up rockstar who alternately love-bombs and neglects her daughter, abandoning her at a bar late at night to then buy her an electric guitar at the following encounter.
The father, played by a surprising Steve Coogan, is possibly an even less redeeming character, caught between the inability to connect with his child and the reality of being too self-involved to do so. Filmed from Maisie’s perspective, played by the precociously talented child-actor Onata Aprile, it captures the readjustments that are commonplace in a relationship breakdown, but that assume heart-breaking magnitude when seen through the eyes of the child. The film is based on the Henry James novel, from which it lifts its central trope, revolving the action around an omniscient but silent party, who understands and yet does not communicate the complexity of what she is witnessing. Whilst it gives the Hollywood treatment to James’s nuanced and sinister story, it’s a clever and beautiful movie with flawless central performances.
Roisin Agnew @Roxeenna