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Familial dysfunction at its finest: What Maisie Knew will tug on your heart strings while you see the dark side of a breakup through a child’s eyes

“You know I love you more than anything”

As a direct product of divorced parents, Scott McGehee and David Siegel’s What Maisie Knew—based on Henry James’ 1897 novel—brought back some of the inevitable downfalls of experiencing a split, especially at such a young age: alienation, bribery, the oh so evil stepmother, living out of a suitcase, having to do everything twice—not to mention, the miscommunications that arises from parents refusing to talk to one another or being on bad terms. It’s all just one big mess, really!

But Masie’s (Onata Aprile) parents, Susanna (Julianna Moore) and Beale (Steve Coogan), who are complete opposites, never married. Susanna is tatted up in some rock band that’s about to go on tour, and Beale is an older-looking art dealer who’s always traveling in and out of the country—leaving Maisie most times with Margot (Joanna Vanderham), their 20-something nanny. They live in an uppity apartment in Manhattan and are on the verge of parting ways, constantly bickering about everything—leaving Maisie always listening in, and Margot always stuck in the middle of the mess.

When Susanna and Beale go to court to settle custody arrangements legally, Maisie is the ultimate weapon: Beale marries Margot to have more legitimacy, and in retaliation Susanna marries her younger (oh so good looking!) friend Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgård); it’s back and forth, back and forth of what parent’s worse and who’s better. Finally, due to Susanna’s partylike tendencies and incapabilities to watch over Maisie like an “adult,” the court hands custody over to Beale, who isn’t really the best dad. The result: lots of neglect on both sides for the little one who matters most in the first place.

Through all of this, Maisie is learning a few life lessons herself. She already knows how much to tip the pizza man, and can we just talk about how she is probably cooler than I will ever be in my entire life? I mean, the girl’s rocking Doc Martens and vintage jackets by like, age six (typical Manhattan kid!), and she’s a little smart aleck! In the cutest way possible, of course. Onata Aprile’s performance is outstanding and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her in more upcoming lead roles.

I want to liken What Maisie Knew to Matilda. Maisie, understanding her irresponsible parents are most times in the wrong, and then her blossoming as the result of it. Initially when I saw the preview I was teary-eyed, so I after actually watching What Maisie Knew I can promise the movie is very well-acted emotional drama with a lot of funny moments; Maisie will tug on your heart strings, and you will fall in love with this heartbreaking story, even if you’ve never actually experienced the terribleness of a divorce.

(photo via Indie Wire)

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Kaitlin Duffy is a writer from Cleveland. When she's not blogging or pondering the great complexities of the world and outer space, she is finding rare vinyl steals, visiting new places, laughing often, Instagramming everything in sight, watching movies, or working on her first feature Port de Cleve.