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Maudie (2017) Review

A powerfully emotional biography with two outstanding lead performances.

Maudie is a 2017 drama about an arthritic Nova Scotia woman who works as a housekeeper while she hones her skills as an artist and eventually becomes a beloved figure in the community.

Overcoming great physical adversity is only half the story in Aisling Walsh‘s Maudie (alternate title My Love), an unconventional biographical film about a remarkable woman whose passion for life is at the heart of a genuinely moving experience. Grounded by two powerfully authentic performances, this is one of the best films of the year.

Maud (Sally Hawkins) is first seen in an awful state, hunched and coiled into a fragile lump, her hands shaking as she dips a soaked paintbrush in some color and applies it to the wall behind her. It’s a harrowing moment that then flashes back in time to a much younger woman sitting on porch swing while inside, we hear her brother and aunt talk of her inability to care for herself. Desperate to be independent, Maud, who is racked by an unnamed ailment for most of the film, answers an ad to be a live-in housemaid for an outcast fish peddler/laborer named Everett Lewis (Ethan Hawke). He takes her in and she suffers his abuses as he slowly warms to her value, she finding solace in the simple paintings she puts on the walls. Not long after, someone of significance takes notice of her work and makes Maude and Everett famous.

Based on the real life of artist Maud Lewis, the film feels more like a story from the heartland than a biography. Set in Nova Scotia during the years before World War II, we discover that Maude is afflicted with terrible arthritis stemming from rheumatic fever when she was a child. This makes her weak and unable to really care for herself, though she reveals that she is more adept at work then she appears. The dynamic between Maud and Everett is one of great contrasts and therefore, despite the rough edges, a fine fit when things are smoothed. He is an uneducated man, unable to read and grunts his way through life, working hard to make a living. Her intelligence and patience bring him stability. But it’s not always easy.

Maudie, 2017 © H Is 4 Productions

In this mix comes Sandra (Kari Matchett), a woman from New York who shows monetary interest in Maud’s work and this gives her a larger purpose, something that benefits Everett as well and a partnership is made, one that soon becomes much more. The film is really less about the rise to fame than it is the romance between these two lonely characters. Hawke’s Everett is a troubling figure, a man who seems capable of horrible violence just by the looks of him, and indeed, there are times when that comes to bear, though most often he is merely a gruff voice in need of what Maud offers. Hawkins does her best work yet, in a towering performance that is often aching to watch. There is tremendous dignity about Maud as we sense with great intimacy the frightful pain she endures, trapped in a steadily constricting frame. It’s heartbreaking.

Maudie is a rare gem, so convincing of its characters and story we lose ourselves in the relationship and come away greatly moved when it ends. A uniquely personal look into a life well worth remembering, this is a touching, beautifully made movie that not only enlightens us on the considerable contribution of a very real person, but inspires with her remarkable spirit.

Maudie (2017) Review

Movie description: My Love is a 2017 drama about an arthritic Nova Scotia woman who works as a housekeeper while she hones her skills as an artist and eventually becomes a beloved figure in the community.

Director(s): Aisling Walsh

Actor(s): Sally Hawkins, Ethan Hawke, Kari Matchett

Genre: Biographical

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