What Maisie Knew

Hank Mattimore
July 7, 2013
Reproduced with Permission

There is a sleeper of a movie out now with the unlikely title of "What Maisie Knew." Based on a Henry James's short novel, it tells the story of the breakup of a marriage seen entirely through the eyes of a sad and wise little girl named Maisie.

Maisie, with her child's eyes, says very little as she finds herself the pawn in a struggle between her mom, an aging rock star clawing desperately to salvage a career and her equally self-centered dad, an art dealer who loves the good life. She hears their bitter shouting matches; listens as they cut one another down. The little girl is a silent observer to scenes worthy of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf."

Maisie is nothing more than an inconvenience to the careers of both parents. She is mostly a bother. Neither spouse wants to have to take care of her, yet both are unwilling to let her go lest they be the one accused of child abandonment. For spite, each parent takes up with a younger person. Overnight, Maisie finds herself with two moms and two dads.

Pardon me if I state the obvious; this is not an untirely unknown scenario in real life. Trust me; I have worked with far too many foster kids who know exactly what Maisie is experiencing. Their parents, tired of taking care of their kids, want the freedom of living the good life without the burden of being responsible for their offspring.

In the movie, neither parent is seen as a complete villain. They didn't set out in life to damage their child. They are "sorry" that their little girl has to suffer but, after all, they have their needs. They want a life for themselves. The bottom line is painfully evident; neither is willing to be an adult.

The media is full these days of stories of adults who want their "rights." Whether gay or straight or some combination thereof, we all insist on our civil rights. We want our tax credits and our civil rights and off with the head of any politician who doesn't hear us pay attention.

Then I think of Maisie and all the little kids who can't speak for themselves but who are not getting what is coming to them, a safe home life, loving adult parents, a quality education.

Instead, they are getting broken homes, self-centered adults who love them too little and keep them as only as long as it is convenient to do do so. Like Maisie, all they can do is sit on the sidelines while we adults squabble over our rights.

Go see the movie. It's painful but we need to see it.