Wednesday, 12 December 2018

A shocking tale of parental selfishness

REMEMBER Kramer vs. Kramer, that 1979 American movie about divorce with Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman battling it out over the kids?

REMEMBER Kramer vs. Kramer, that 1979 American movie about divorce with Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman battling it out over the kids?

Remember, also, how shocking it all seemed back then? No more. Since then films about divorce and custody battles and that most taboo of subjects — bad mothers — are commonplace.

Well here’s another to add to the list. The twist is that this is a modern, updated version of a very old book, written by that master of literature Henry James back in 1897.

The story is transported to modern day Manhattan. The parents in question are Susanna and Beale, played by Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan respectively, an unlikely pairing you might think but one which has received critical acclaim for their portrayal of a dysfunctional modern couple.

Susanna is an ageing rock star — needy, egotistical and selfish — while Beale is a distracted art dealer. Together they are shockingly bad parents, and even when they break up after Susanna takes a lover they’re not much better.

She is worried that she will lose her daughter to the boyfriend, a barman played by Alexander Skarsgård, who bonds well with the little girl. Meanwhile, her ex hooks up with the nanny, Joanna, who also seems to care more about little Maisie than either of her self-obsessed parents.

It’s a gruelling and moving character study seen through the eyes of the six-year-old daughter, played brilliantly by Onata Aprile, who has been noted as a rising talent to watch.

This is a skilful re-telling of a story written more than 100 years ago but which resonates ever more today. The performances are said to be captivating.

What Maisie Knew plays at the Regal Picturehouse now.

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