Screened as part of NZIFF 2013

What Maisie Knew 2012

Directed by David Siegel, Scott McGehee

Steve Coogan and Julianne Moore are the divorcing parents seen from the viewpoint of six-year-old Maisie (amazing Onata Aprile) in this 21st-century Manhattan update of Henry James’ novel. With Alexander Skarsgaard.

99 minutes


William Teitler
Charles Weinstock
Daniela Taplin Lundberg
Daniel Crown


Nancy Doyne, Carroll Cartwright. Based on the novel by Henry James


Giles Nuttgens


Madeleine Gavin

Production Designer

Kelly McGehee

Costume Designer

Stacey Battat


Eliza Paley, Michael Barry


Nick Urata


Julianne Moore (Susanna), Steve Coogan (Beale), Alexander Skarsgård (Lincoln), Joanna Vanderham (Margo), Onata Aprile (Maisie), Sadie Rae Lee (Zoe), Jesse Spadaccini (Martin), Diana García Soto (Cecelia), Amelia Campbell (Ms Baine)


Toronto 2012; San Francisco 2013


Like the Henry James novel on which it is loosely based, Scott McGehee and David Siegel’s film draws us into the consciousness of a child pulled this way and that by her divorcing parents. Susanna (Julianne Moore) is a rock singer, Beale (Steve Coogan) an art dealer. Their rampant narcissism would be the stuff of farce in other circumstances. While we are repeatedly jolted by their neglect, Maisie’s apparent failure to register the peril in which they place her rivets us to her every move.

“Custody goes one way – no, then the other way – no, the other way again. Both of Maisie’s parents remarry: Beale to Maisie’s nanny (Joanna Vanderham) and Susanna to a laid-back bartender named Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgård) she doesn’t even like all that much. So now, Maisie has four adults to worry about, two of whom have already demonstrated they can’t care for her effectively and two of whom are not her parents.

Moore is very good as a nasty and self-involved bad mother, and the other three adults do fine work as well – particularly Skarsgård… But this ultimately very fine movie belongs truly and justly to Onata Aprile, who gives the most remarkable performance I’ve ever seen by a child of this age… She bends toward affection like a sunflower, and the first time Lincoln goes to walk her across the street and she instinctively offers her hand for him to hold, the very fact of her reaching toward an adult expecting to be cared for becomes the film’s driving force. Her faith that everyone won’t fail her – which she has maintained against all logic, really – becomes the thing that must be saved.” — Linda Holmes, NPR