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Director: Aisling Walsh
Writer: Sherry White
Stars: Ethan Hawke, Sally Hawkins, Kari Matchett
Review by Gilbert Seah
MAUDIE is the film about Maud Lewis. Maud Lewis is among the most inspiring figures in Canadian art. Afflicted with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, she spent her early life dismissed for what was presumed to be her limited ability. But Lewis’ colourful paintings, made on surfaces ranging from beaverboard to cookie sheets, established her as one of our country’s premier folk artists.
There is one reason to see the new Canadian/Irish drama about painter Maud Lewis and it is the actress who portrays her, Brit Sally Hawkins. Besides being this reviewer’s favourite number 1 actress who broke into prominence with Mike Leigh’s HAPPY-GO-LUCKY, Hawkins has also garnered an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress playing Cate Blanchette’s sister in Woody Allen’s BLUE JASMINE. MAUIDE puts Hawkins again in Best Actress category, which should win her at least a Best Canadian Screen Award nomination for Best Actress.
MAUDIE, based on a true story (the real images of Maudie and Everett seen in the final credits), is an unlikely romance in which the reclusive Everett Lewis (Ethan Hawke) hires a fragile yet determined woman named Maudie (Sally Hawkins) to be his housekeeper. Maudie, bright-eyed but hunched with crippled hands, yearns to be independent, to live away from her protective family and she also yearns, passionately, to create art. Unexpectedly, Everett finds himself falling in love. MAUDIE charts Everett’s efforts to protect himself from being hurt, Maudie’s deep and abiding love for this difficult man and her surprising rise to fame as a folk painter. Things change when one day a summer resident comes calling. She’s a New Yorker, wears alluring clothing and talks like Katharine Hepburn. She sees something in Maudie’s paintings and commissions one. Suddenly Maudie’s pastime is recognized as having real value. People come from far and wide. Eventually her work will hang in the White House.
Irish director Walsh concentrates on the drama of the couple’s difficult relationship. It is only after the half way mark that Maudie begins to paint. The secret of Maudie’s daughter still being alive and still existing is only given a fleeting nod, again the film revetting back to the couple’s relationship.
The film is a period piece set in the small village of Marshalltown, 1937. As this is a small village, only small carts and horses are sufficient to convince the audience of the early 30’s setting. Though set in Nova Scotia, MAUDIE was shot in Newfoundland, likely because the Province of Newfoundland poured in money for the production. Still these two are Atlantic provinces and the film is beautifully shot by cinematographer Guy Godfree displaying images of the maritime light and landscape. The music is haunting and provided by COWBOYS JUNKIES member, Michael Timmins, even though the music often comes on into the film abruptly at several points.
Besides Hawkins’ outstanding performance, talkative Ethan Hawke delivers one against (his) type as the quiet and moody husband, Everett Lewis. Vancouver actress Gabrielle Rose, recently seen in THE DEVOUT is also a pleasure to watch, playing Maudie’ ailing Aunt Ida.
No reason is given for Maudie’s crippled hands except that the problem is linked to arthritis, which is assumed afflicted Maudie from a much younger age than most. Nothing much is also mentioned of Everett’s background, though one would be curious the reason he became quite the recluse.
Though MAUDIE might be a slow watch for some, it is a well crafted and effective biopic of MAUDIE and her troubled relationship.
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