Every once in a while a movie comes along that not only moves me but makes me think about the choices we have in this life. The British Film, What Maisie Knew, superbly directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel is one of those films. It’s an updated retelling of the 1897 short story by Henry James, the author of such classics as Wings of a Dove, Daisy Miller and The Portrait of A Lady.
It’s a story about a couple’s marriage falling apart and the battle over custody of their child. It’s a familiar theme, like the one in the brilliant Iranian film, A Separation.
Here we have a couple, still bent on pursuing their careers and their dreams and what they fail to realize is the treasure they have in their midst. So bent are they in their own view of who’s to blame that they’re blinded to what they stand to lose.
What Maisie Knew is a remarkable film from another perspective as well, as it’s filmed from the height of the child’s world. It’s Maisie we follow, played with remarkable understatement by Onata Aprile. I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of her. She conveyed more with her expressions than seasoned actors decades older. The rest of the leading cast, including Julianne Moore, Steve Coogan, and Alexander Skarsgard, were also brilliant.
As a former family therapist, I’ve seen my share of family conflict. For the most part, mothers and fathers try their best even if at times their best isn’t good enough. But it’s often enough that they’ve tried.
Every child is unique, like Maisie in this fantastic film. Raising any child is a joy but also a challenge. I’ve often thought, for every one that comes into the world, a manual should pop out shortly after, telling the parents what’s needed. What works for one doesn’t always work for the other.
Children grow up too quickly. They’re often growing up during the time their parents are still trying to figure out their own lives and chase their own dreams. So, parenting becomes a juggling act, one where some of the balls are dropped. We are all fallible. If through these ups and downs, we can still give our children the love and guidance they need and deserve, not all is lost. Parenting is caring enough to listen and try and understand.
All I’m saying is this highly recommended film, What Maisie Knew, underlined for me the need for those who have been given the joy of a child to stop once in a while in this fast-paced world and take stock. Like my daughter used to say, you don’t miss the water until the well runs dry.