Film Review: What Maisie Knew

It’s strange that for some reason I have actually been avoiding What Maisie Knew. Available through Curzon’s Home Cinema service, I’d get a few cycles into the trailer and would just switch off. My mind was made up, this wasn’t for me. So I’d pass onto the next film. And I really can’t explain why I was being so judgemental, why I had created such strong preconceived ideas.

I spoke previously about how I have a list of films based upon Empire Magazine’s recommendations, and it was when “reviewing” it that I discovered What Maisie Knew was on their list. And so, even though I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it, I gave it a go. I offered it the chance to change my mind and by heck, it did that with spades on.

I can honestly say that it has been a long, long time since I have been as moved by a film as this. For me, this movie has just catapulted itself to the top of the movies of 2014 list – although it’s sharing the honour with Frances Ha, even though I didn’t rate Frances Ha that highly at the time, I keep thinking back to now it with a smile and affection.

Julianne Moore - What Maisie Knew

Getting back to Maisie though, the first thing that really hits you about this film is that Directors: Scott McGehee and David Siegel along with Cinematographer Giles Nuttgens, have filmed everything from a reduced height. From the eye line of a child. This means that the film is constantly looking up, viewing everything from below. And while this may sound odd, it actually works in instantly connecting you as the viewer with your inner child, as well as, creating a view of the world that takes on the simplistic innocent tone that is so important to it’s over all feel.

Over the past 6 months I  have come to firmly believe that inside every adult there is a little child. Our fundamental core which governs our emotions, completely ignoring the complexities and responsibilities of life. While on the outside we are all grown up; age and maturity ruling our day to day lives: setting boundaries and routines inside is a small child is unconcerned about everything, except what feels good and what provides comfort.

That’s why this film is so powerful, because everything adds up to tap directly into your inner child. It bypasses all serious questions, all responsibilities and makes you simply look at this story through the eyes of a child and asks the simple question: what does it mean to be happy? And by connecting with that inner child, by forcing you to watch it through the eyes of a child, you instantly connect and befriend Maisie. You almost feel as though as her story unfolds you are stood next to her, watching how her world orbits. The highs, lows and the confusion she faces. Connecting, sharing, the whole time in her responses. Good or bad.

Steve Coogan & Onata Aprile - What Maisie Knew

Onata Aprile plays the titular Maisie and the image, the look in her eyes, is so believable that, I guarantee, that even though you are sharing this story with her as a child, you will end up desperately wanting to nurture her and praying for her outcome to be positive. Longing she ends up happy. Julianne Moore, playing Maisie’s mother is OK, and brings ageing rocker to the screen in a way that while never truly convinces you she fully believes in her character, thankfully, has just enough enough to keep things ticking along. Sadly though, the same cannot be said for Steve Coogan as Maisie’s father. His fit and feel for his part just don’t really work, and his American accent is unplaceable; spoiling of the film, overpowering every emotion in any scene he is in and sadly, with the plot direction his character ultimately ends up taking, in fact his natural British dialogue would have provided a more convincing reasoning.

Like I said though, I totally misjudged this film, and while the strength of Aprile’s performance is the starting point for this, it’s when you remove Coogan and Moore and give Aprile screen time with Alexander Skarsgård and Joanna Vanderham that this film truly climbs the ladder and will emotionally pull you apart. As the film progressed and Maisie spent more and more time with them, the closer and closer I came to actually crying, and that hasn’t happened in life, let alone a film, for a very long time.

Onata Aprile, Alexander Skarsgard & Joanna Vvanderham - What Maisie Knew

What Maisie Knew, reached in, befriended my inner child and moved me so much, that as it came closer and closer to the end of its 96 minute running time, the more and more I didn’t want it to finish. I am almost close to sitting down and watching it again tonight, because, as a result of all my problems in real life, it’s been a very long time since I have felt that single raw sensation of being truly, and purely, happy,. Without a care in the world. And that is exactly what Maisie gave me, and it’s a sensation that is more powerful than anything available elsewhere.

9 out of 10 stars (9 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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