Julianne Moore stars with Steve Coogan as neglectful parents of a young child. We follow the trials and tribulations of having different carers and different maternal and paternal figures.
What Maisie Knew has a couple of unique aspects. First, it’s rare to see such a story told through the eyes of a child without it being a children’s film. Maisie is often left on her own by her parents, but the camera barely ever looks away from her.
Second, events unfold in a low-key but unpredictable way. There’s material here that is almost screaming for a Hollywood style Julianne-Moore-crying-all-over-the-place melodrama, yet things seldom bubble over. There’s more of a drawn out melancholic air to the film; a bold move that mostly pays off.
Otherwise, this is an unremarkable film. Moore plays the rockstar mother well enough but sometimes comes over as a comedy villain. I’m not a fan of Coogan in dramatic roles and this only serves to validate my opinion - he’s a cliché of the philandering businessman who tries to pretend to care.
Alexander Skarsgård and Joanna Vanderham play the ‘back-up’ parents well, and they manage to sell their otherwise hackneyed story arc. Onata Aprile plays Maisie and nails the smart, observant but naive child character required of the role.
I like what What Maisie Knew is trying to do, but it fails to be the understated work of genius it wants to be.