Director Aisling Walsh’s film Maudie centres around the life and work of Nova Scotia folk artist Maud Lewis. Lewis is familiar to Canadians and to art lovers around the world from her iconic paintings, made during the latter part of her life, but the film actually begins with the portrait of the artist as a young woman. Continue reading…
In 1937, Maud is consigned to live with her aunt in Digby, Nova Scotia. Despite existing on the forbearance of others, including her money-loving brother and prissy aunt, Maud is nevertheless determined to have a life. The opportunity comes one day, when she overhears a local fisherman named Everett Lewis posting an ad for a live-in woman/cook/maid/serf. With a jaunty tam on her head, she presents herself at Everett’s door. It doesn’t go too well, but our indomitable heroine doesn’t give up, maybe because she has nowhere else to go. (A woman’s place at the time was somewhere below dogs and chickens.) Maud moves in with Everett, and the pair, unlovely as unmatched socks, takes up together.
The narrative has a distinctly 1940’s flavour, rural, Canadian, and wonderfully deadpan. Sally Hawkins plays Maud with a sly wit and a core of steeliness, even though her actual spine was crumbling from the effects of junior rheumatoid arthritis. As Everett, Ethan Hawke stomps and frowns through the story, but he never really gets past the pantomime of trousers hiked high and country gruffness. Hawkins fares better, committing herself bodily to the role, bending and twisting her already spare frame into a torturous resemblance of what arthritis does to bones and flesh. Bending fingers into waves, and turning the spine into a supine curve. (The real Maud Lewis was so physically challenged that the size of her paintings was dictated by how far she could move her arms.) It is almost enough to watch Ms. Hawkin’s display of control and delicacy, with line readings so dry they’re practically sandpaperish.
Director Walsh, working from a script from Sherry White, captures Nova Scotia in all its grey, brown painterly beauty. The sky and the sea and the cluster of houses at the shore are presented in carefully composed tableaus, not unlike the images captured in Lewis’s paintings. There is precision and skill at work here, but the film never relinquishes control long enough for genuine impact. Emotion is measured out in careful dollops of teacups and sweaters. This aspect becomes especially apparent with a tiny snatch of archival footage of the real Maud Lewis and her husband at the very end of the film. In that brief window, you get a whiff of something far more interesting, far more odd and strange. After seeing the real thing, the copy is no longer enough. — Dorothy Woodend
Team #MOTW Comments:
Betsy Bozdech Set against a background of sometimes beautiful, sometimes bleak, always breathtaking Canadian vistas, Aisling Walsh’s biopic about celebrated folk artist Maud Lewis boasts authentic, lived-in performances by stars Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke. Sherry White’s script slowly but assuredly introduces us to two misfits who find unexpected solace and companionship in each other — when they’re not arguing with or insulting each other, that is. Walsh wisely gives her actors space to convey Maud and Everett’s moments of deep pain and everyday joy, bringing their simple life — which many might dismiss as poor or dismal — to poignant life.
Jeanne Wolf: “Maudie” is a feel good movie that will make you ache. Sally Hawkins – like you’d never expect to see the beautiful, delicate actress- and Ethan Hawke who keeps proving he can take on a big range – this time lonely, rude and charmless – nothing like you’d expect of this young charmer. They are two troubled and side-lined souls who find each other. Maudie is based on a real woman who, self-taught, paints fetching pictures. She’s been told all her life that she can’t take care of herself. Then her paintings and, even more important, her unsquashable spirit end up supporting the married couple and bring a touch of fame to their very simple life. I cried for Maudie and yet I still wished that I had more of her sense of joy and courage.
Sheila Roberts: Sally Hawkins shines opposite Ethan Hawke in “Maudie,” Irish filmmaker Aisling Walsh’s intimate indie bio-drama directed from a screenplay by Sherry White who crafted an absorbing romantic story around the life of prolific Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis. At an early age, a fragile Lewis overcame the physical challenges of crippling arthritis to lift brush to canvas without any formal training. Painting soon became her greatest passion and source of happiness. When a brusque, reclusive fishmonger living a hardscrabble existence in the wilds of Nova Scotia employs Maud as his live-in housekeeper, the two social misfits find unexpected love and a lifetime partnership. Guy Godfree’s elegant cinematography captures the stark, stunning beauty of Newfoundland, its moody landscapes, dry fields, quaint frame houses and deserted beaches. Also noteworthy is Trysha Bakker’s authentic costume design which lends believability to the characters and the era.
Nell Minow: Sally Hawkins gives an exquisite performance as the outsider artist whose vibrant, life-affirming paintings brought joy to everyone who saw them.
Anne Brodie: Sally Hawkins’ performance as unlikely heroine Maudie Lewis is partly what makes this one of the best recent female-centric films. Her depiction of a feisty woman gradually disabled by arthritis who’s sunny outlook is the heart of the film. The true story of Maudie, who had little exposure to the world and rose to international fame for her primitive paintings is remarkable reminding us that anything is possible. The action takes place primarily inside the Lewis’ one room shack on the outskirts of Marshalltown, NS. It’s now on display inside the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. Maudie was a hit on the festival circuit, and won eight major awards. Its rough, inspiring, deeply moving and a real gem.
Jennifer Merin: Maudie is an emotion stirring and visually stunning biopic about Maud Lewis, the renown Canadian folk artist who survived crippling arthritis and years of severe abuse from her family to paint gloriously happy paintings of flowers, birds and the rural landscape of Nova Scotia. Directed by Irish filmmaker Aisling Walsh and scripted by Canadian screenwriter/actress Sherry White, the film stars Sally Hawkins in the title role. Hawkins’ performance is right on target, an arrow to the heart. Hawkins finds an exceptional screen mate in Ethan Hawke, who plays the irascible bare bones fisherman who hires her as a maid and eventually marries her. Their relationship drives the beautifully realized film — straight to the heart.
Cynthia Fuchs: “Slim pickins applied for the job.” Everett (Ethan Hawke) is disappointed. A fishmonger in Nova Scotia, he’s put up an advertisement in search of a live-in housecleaner. Times are hard during the 1930s, and as he insists more than once, Everett doesn’t plan to pay much or change his routine. The one person who does apply is Maud (Sally Hawkins), looking to support herself for the first time, after her brother Charlie (Zachary Bennett) sold their house without consulting her. Neither Everett nor Maud can imagine the future they’re about to share. Read full review.
Liz Whittemore: Maudie is the story of two misunderstood people who yearn for physical and emotional connection. Finding one another at their loneliest, Maud and Everett form a seemingly unlikely bond navigating their way from work relationship to honest intimacy. The script has a quiet beauty, with cinematography that is as vibrant as Maud’s unique artwork. Sally Hawkins’ performance in the titular role is nothing short of award-worthy. While portraying real life folk artist stricken with severe arthritis, each movement seems both physically pained and balletic all at once. Ethan Hawke steps outside his usual cool guy fare to portray a rather rough around the edges fishermonger. Their chemistry on screen is an absolute joy to watch. Maudie is an unusual love story that will capture your heart and touch your soul.
Director: Aisling Walsh
Release Date: June 16, 2017
Running Time: 115 minutes
Principal Cast: Sally Hawkins, Ethan Hawke
Screenwriter: Sherry White
Distribution Company: Sony Pictures Classics
AWFJ Movie of the Week Panel Members: Thelma Adams, Anne Brodie, Betsy Bozdech, Cynthia Fuchs, Pam Grady, Leba Hertz, Cate Marquis, Jennifer Merin, Nell Minow, Sheila Roberts, Liz Whittemore, Susan Wloszczyna, Jeanne Wolf, Dorothy Woodend
Written by Dorothy Woodend and Betsy Bozdech, edited by Jennifer Merin