A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Separations can be very hard on children, especially when their parents aren't placing the kids' best interests first. But the world is full of kind-hearted people who are able to shower these kids with the care and attention they need. And though there is heartbreak, there's also hope.
Positive Role Models
Lincoln and Margo are the unexpected bright points in Maisie's difficult, though privileged, life. And Maisie herself is a wonder, able to still find whimsy and good in a world that's filled with emotional neglect.
Violence & Scariness
Parents fight and curse at each other in front of their young child. Sometimes they place their child in danger by neglecting her.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Allusions to sex, rather than actual sex scenes. A man flirts with and later marries his child's babysitter; his ex-girlfriend marries a young man she just met. Some kissing.
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Strong language, sometimes used around a 6-year-old, includes "f--k," "s--t," and "a--hole." A woman gives a man the finger while their child is in plain sight.
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Products & Purchases
Labels/products seen include Apple and Pyrex. Nothing excessive.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults drink and smoke socially, sometimes around children.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that What Maisie Knew is a moving, sometimes disturbing drama that examines the world through the lens of 6-year-old Maisie, a downtown New York City girl whose glamorous parents (Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan) are breaking up loudly and painfully in front of her. Some scenes may be difficult to stomach, especially for kids whose parents are going through or have undergone a divorce or separation. Maisie is often shown in heartbreakingly neglectful situations -- at school, with neither parent remembering to pick her up; being shuttled back and forth between apartments; etc. She also sees her parents fight and swear ("f--k," "s--t") at each other, and adults drink and smoke around her/other children. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
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.
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.