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Mackenzie, S. (2014). What Maisie Knew, directors David Siegel and Scott McGehee, 2013. Cpl. Fam. Psychoanal., 4(2):223-225.

(2014). Couple and Family Psychoanalysis, 4(2):223-225

What Maisie Knew, directors David Siegel and Scott McGehee, 2013

Review by:
Suzanna Mackenzie

How prophetic was Henry James's 1897 novel What Maisie Knew? Themes of a child as flotsam amid the chop and change of an acrimonious divorce, multiple partnering, extended step-parenting families, and the ephemeral nature of their defined roles are now common-place. The film version transposes the novel's nineteenth century London to contemporary Manhattan and takes up the same thread of family breakdown, centring around two extremely self-centred people, Maisie's parents, who are in the bitter throes of separation and divorce, creating a sadly familiar, and at times uncomfortably galling, film to sit through.

The novel has Maisie as a young child who develops to the age of thirteen. Her feelings and inner processing are intrinsic and available to us in this medium, whereas the film stays with five-year-old Maisie for only a few months. Instead of Maisie's explicit thoughts, we have the language of images.


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