The multiplexes are jammed with movies for children, but how many great films about childhood are there? Francois Truffaut (“The 400 Blows,” “Small Change”) knew the terrain and 2011’s “Monsieur Lazhar” got wrenchingly under the skin of its Montreal grade-schoolers. Mostly, though, the movies are content to show our kids things without ever being curious about how they see things.
“What Maisie Knew,” a modern-dress adaptation of the 1897 Henry James novel, reverses the trend: It’s told entirely from the point of view of a 6-year-old girl as she watches her parents’ relationship come apart. Maisie (the remarkable Onata Aprile) is adorable without being a Cute Kid, and while she occasionally seems too placid — would one tantrum have been too much? — her watchfulness is the point. As in the novel, Maisie is witness to the foolishness of people who call themselves grown-ups. What she gradually comes to understand is that she is their victim as well.