Screened as part of NZIFF 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