Preteen girl looking at a cell phone with her parents

Personalized picks at your fingertips

Get the mobile app on iOS and Android

Parents' Guide to

What Maisie Knew

By S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Wrenching drama about child custody can spark discussion.

Movie R 2013 98 minutes
What Maisie Knew Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 14+

Based on 1 parent review

age 14+

2 Thumbs Up!!

This movie is beautiful. I thoroughly enjoyed it! It's a side of Julianne Moore I've never seen before. Her rock star character was bold and somewhat unlikable, which was different. The cast is excellent and the little girl who plays Maisie was fantastic! This story is about a very busy unwed couple, Susanna and Beale, who no longer get along and are separated. But their sweet daughter Maisie is caught between them while she witnesses her parents' constant arguing when they are together. Maisie is passed around from caregiver to caregiver after her mother becomes jealous of her long-time nanny Margo. Margo and Maisie have a special bond that cannot be broken but when Susanna discovers that Margo and her ex Beale are seeing each other, she freaks out and wants nothing to do with her. Meanwhile, to get back at Beale, Susanna marries a handsome young bartender named Lincoln while Beale marries Margo but their love for one another on both sides isn't really there. Lincoln soon becomes attached to Maisie too and they both share a close bond that steals your heart, but it frustrates Susanna when she see's her daughter happy around everyone but her, causing her to start unnecessary arguments with Lincoln. In the end, things start to unfold and Susanna realizes that Maisie's happiness is most important. It's sad and heartwarming at the same time. Language is strong but not too frequent, some f-words in front of a child along with other curse words. Violence includes lots of arguing and yelling, and neglecting a small child. Sexual content is mild - a woman marries a younger man she just met right after splitting up with Maisie's father, some brief flirting and a sweet kiss. Some smoking and drinking but not frequent. Excellent for 14+ who don't mind a bit of curse words but highly recommended to adults.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (1 ):
Kids say (2 ):

Prepare to hold your heart in your hand; if you don't, it will fall into pieces after seeing WHAT MAISIE KNEW. Very few films have so eloquently distilled the ache and misery of being a child caught in the tug-of-war between two angry parents locked in a custody battle, neither of whom is truly capable of protecting their child from the emotional harm they're unwittingly inflicting. There are all sorts of parental misfires on display here: A dad co-opts the one adult who hasn't let his child down (her caregiver), without appreciating the damage that inflicts, and he makes promises he can't keep because he's too focused on his work and on "winning" against his ex-girlfriend in court. A mother can't stop telling her daughter how much she cares (and you can see she really does), but she's too broken to realize that she spends more time arguing with her ex or her lawyer to actually enjoy her daughter and show her that she's truly the center of her world. And that's just the beginning.

Inspired by a Henry Miller novel, What Maisie Knew punches hard, albeit with subtlety. Painful scenes aren't overplayed; instead, they're allowed to unfurl in all their heartbreaking glory, unburdened by loud swells of music or showy acting. (Every single actor delivers a stunning performance, with the wide-eyed, sweet-faced Aprile best of all.) It packs a punch with truth, and although Maisie's situation is very specific -- her parents are of a very affluent, very downtown Manhattan type with a lifestyle that few people live -- her experience is unfortunately universal. We need to know what she knows.

Movie Details

Inclusion information powered by

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate