what-maisie-knew-jan-15thAdapted from the 1895 novel by Henry James, the scene is contemporary New York. Maisie is the hapless six year old daughter of divorcing parents, businessman Beale (Steve Coogan) and rock singer Susanna (Julianne Moore). The story, as in the novel, is told from the perspective of the tiny but precociously wise Maisie, whose resilience in the face of her narcissistic parents is remarkable. There are excellent performances from Alexander Skarsgård and Joanna Vanderham as Maisie’s step-parents. “What Maisie Knew is an indictment of those who do not realise that innocence is not something to be scorned and used, but cherished and protected” – Sheila O’Malley, rogerebert.com. (Cert 15)
Dirs: Scott McGehee/Dave Siegel 99 mins USA 2012

Programme Notes

What Maisie Knew
USA 2012 99mins Cert 15

It is most appropriate that this adaptation of Henry James’ 1897 novel of the same name is projected forward 120 years to the modern day. It serves to remind us that the selfishness of bitter divorcing parents and disregard of the needs of their children, is not a recent development in our moral decline. Although there are key departures from James’ original text, the film’s narrative is told through the eyes of six year old Maisie (Onata Aprile), valiantly negotiating her passage through the stormy seas of her parents’ divorce. Maisie, thus far, is a wise and largely unspoilt child, in spite of her parents’ inadequacies.

All performances from the ensemble cast are well judged. In some of his best film work, Steve Coogan plays the errant husband Beale, who is singularly devoid of parental responsibility and whose subsequent relationship with, and marriage to, Maisie’s nanny Margo (Joanna Vanderham) is a further sign of his keenness to sub-contract out his daughter’s care. Maisie’s rock singer mother Susanna (Julianne Moore) is not above similar tactics.

“Another thing Maisie knows is to trust the people who actually take care of her, never voicing an allegiance that would exclude anyone she cares for but eagerly accepting love that’s offered in the form of actions as well as words. In this modern take on a century-old story, that distinction remains the most valuable of all.” John DeFore, The Hollywood Reporter

Susanna – Julianne Moore
Beale – Steve Coogan
Maisie – Onata Aprile
Margo – Joanna Vanderham
Lincoln – Alexander Skarsgard

Directors – Scott McGhee, David Siegel
Producers – Charles Weinstock, Daniela Taplin Lundberg, Daniel Crown, William Teitler
Screenplay – Nancy Doyne, Carroll Cartwright
Cinematography – iles Nuttgens
Music – Nick Urata


“Maisie was just ‘amaising’!”

“Onata Aprile did a fantastic job.”

“Very good”

“An extra-ordinary take on this 19th century novel. Made one want to check the original to contrast both periods.”

“The story translated well into modern ‘rock and roll’ parenting.”

“Sensitive portrayal of total selfishness – but a bit too glamorous.”

“A well made story of modern life but perhaps a little sad!”

“What a sad tale and how amazing that a child could be so trusting. Excellent acting!”

“I was blown away by all the performances!”

“As usual, a lot of incoherent dialogue. Despite that, a poignant picture which showed a world of indifferent adults.”

“I hated a lot of this film – confusion, noise, cluttered affluence, not knowing what the Hell was going on – but I suppose that’s how Maisie saw it. I liked the stand-off between her and her mother at the end.”

“An astonishingly good performance by the little girl”

“Amazing performances but took too long to get going and too much padding.”

“Needed sub-titles! Great acting by Aprile and excellent direction.”

“The best performance was from the little girl. I expected more from Julianne Moore. Not mind-blowing but made you think a bit!”

“Remarkable acting by Onata Aprile. When do we get What Maisie Did Next ?”

“Implausible film built around self-centred characters. No hope for Maisie, who will never again be able to trust anyone.”

“Some touching moments in an (otherwise) slow, repetitive and predictable plot.”

“‘For we are the King’s abjects’ – Henry IV, part 1. For Heaven’s sake, send the little brat to boarding school! Problem solved.”

“Ending sudden and unsatisfactory”

“That’s a scandalous way to bring up a turtle.”

“That child slept more than any child I have ever come across.”


A:15, B:19, C:6, D:1, E:1 to give 77%