THE STORYThe based-on-a-true-story account of Canadian painter Maud Lewis (Sally Hawkins), her unconventional marriage to her husband Everett (Ethan Hawke), and her surprising rise to prominence as an artist.
THE CAST – Sally Hawkins & Ethan Hawke
THE TEAM – Aisling Walsh (Director) & Sherry White (Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 116 Minutes
By Matthew G.
Relationships are strange things. Sometimes two people are brought together, despite seemingly having little in common. And, despite all the obstacles placed in their path and all the chaos of time, they make it work. Such is the case with the main characters of “Maudie” – a biopic about the life, marriage, and art of Canadian painter Maud Lewis.
Maud Dowley (Sally Hawkins) is a woman who hasn’t had the easiest life in her small Nova Scotia village. She suffers from crippling arthritis. She gave birth to a baby as a single mother but was told her baby was deformed and died. She’s painfully quiet. And she’s often told by her aunt and rich brother that she won’t amount to much because they claim she is unattractive and has no talent outside of her painting. But when Everett Lewis (Ethan Hawke), a local fish salesman, puts out an advertisement for a live-in housemaid, Maud takes up the challenge, leading to so much more for the two of them.
Sally Hawkins is an absolute delight playing Maud Lewis. She’s a very talented actress who has received accolades for her work in previous films, including a Best Actress – Comedy Golden Globe win for “Happy-Go-Lucky” and Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe/BAFTA/Oscar nominations for “Blue Jasmine.” With her softly sweet, yet fiercely determined performance as Maud, she enraptures the audience with her presence. Ethan Hawke is also no stranger to awards love as he’s been nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars twice for “Training Day” and “Boyhood”, as well as Best Adapted Screenplay twice for “Before Sunset” and “Before Midnight.” In stark contrast to Maud’s sweetness, Hawke plays the lonely and isolated Everett by bringing a hard gruffness that makes him come across as stern and unlikable. Indeed, in his first few interactions with Maud’s meekness, Everett is abrasive and abusive, despite her best intentions to make him happy.
The story of their meeting, the development of their relationship, and the progression of their 32-year marriage plays out over nearly two hours. The screenplay from Sherry White makes that two hours enjoyable. However, it can be a little slow at times and the run time is a bit longer than is needed. Nevertheless, the two central performances and a good dash of sarcastic humor from White’s script more than make up for it. Director Aisling Walsh pulls everything she can out of both of her main actors. At first, you’re left perplexed as to how two such seemingly opposite people could forge a relationship, much less one that stands the test of time. And yet, Maud’s unbreakable spirit combines with Everett’s loneliness and need for companionship to yield just such a partnership.
In addition to looking at Maud and Everett’s personal life, “Maudie” also focuses on Maud as a painter. Her work consists of very basic things like birds, landscapes, and just whatever she sees around her. She even starts small by painting the interior walls of the tiny one room house she shares with Everett. However, as time passes, she moves on to painting little cards and squares of wood that Everett brings home. Eventually, her art catches the notice of a well-to-do woman who offers to buy some of Maud’s work. In due course, some of the paintings even wind up in the possession of then US President Richard Nixon. The paintings spread far and wide, even drawing in a television news crew to interview her and Everett about her success coming from such small and humble surroundings. Said small and humble surroundings do demonstrate that the production design, art direction, costuming, and makeup are minimal and sparse. While such details are minimalist, they are necessary to support the reality of the characters and their story.
In the end, “Maudie” is a very sweet and lovely little film that is anchored by a pair of strong efforts from Ethan Hawke and especially Sally Hawkins. Maud’s gentle disposition and firm determination fly off the screen thanks to Hawkins’ superb work that is excellently supported by Hawke’s thorny demeanor and laconic speaking pattern. The contrast of beauty and rockiness is provided by good writing from Sherry White and solid direction from Aisling Walsh. The film as a whole may not rise to the highest of heights, but what can be created from the story of two simple, yet needy people coming together and falling in love is more than enough to recommend it.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – Sally Hawkins brings a sense of quiet and gentle grace, which is balanced by Ethan Hawke’s gruffness. There’s also a rather fun and wry sense of humor throughout.
THE FINAL SCORE – 7/10