Maudie (2016)

  • Time: 115 min
  • Genre: Biography | Drama | Romance
  • Director: Aisling Walsh
  • Cast: Ethan Hawke, Sally Hawkins, Kari Matchett


An arthritic Nova Scotia woman works as a housekeeper while she hones her skills as an artist and eventually becomes a beloved figure in the community.

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  • Sally Hawkins persuasively incarnates Maud Lewis, one of Canada’s most well-known folk artists, in Aisling Walsh’s Maudie. The optimism of her childlike, one-dimensional works, often consisting of flowers, plants and animals, belied the toils and troubles of her life, starting with the rheumatoid arthritis that left her partly crippled from an early age.

    That disability doesn’t deter Maud from living her life though, as a woman in a small Nova Scotia town in the 1930s, it does further solidify her as a second-class citizen. At the start of the film, her brother Charles (Zachary Bennett) informs her that he’s sold their family home and that she’s to live with their Aunt Ida (Gabrielle Rose), who frowns disapprovingly of Maud frequenting the local nightclub. Chafing under Ida’s stern rule and seeking some independence, Maud jumps at the chance to apply for a live-in housekeeper position for local fish seller Everett Lewis (Ethan Hawke) despite his sociopathic demeanour.

    Life with Everett doesn’t seem too marked an improvement over life with Aunt Ida. He’s brusque and bullying and makes her place in the household firmly clear: “There’s me, them dogs, them chickens, then you.” And yet Maud stays on, despite the abuse, despite the gossip in town that she’s Everett’s sex slave (due to the fact that they share the same bed), and despite Everett belittling her paintings even though he has no problems accepting the money her work is bringing in. Somehow Maud forgives or at least circumnavigates his gruff temperament to assert herself and her work.

    There’s no doubt concerning the excellence of Hawkins and Hawke’s portrayals, but this is one of those instances where the direction seems to be working against the story’s harsh realities. It’s not that Walsh whitewashes the couple’s relationship, but the manner in which Walsh and screenwriter Sherry White posit their union as an against-all-odds kind of love is disingenuous. This may have genuinely been the case in real life, but it does not translate in reel life. Perhaps Maud didn’t have any other feasible options, but one still doesn’t understand why she withstood Everett’s abuse. His later meager displays of tenderness are jarring as is her conviction that “I was loved” no matter that Michael Timmins’ sentimental score works to convince viewers otherwise.

    Nevertheless, one can’t help but admire Maud’s sunny perseverance as she turns Everett’s gloomy house into her own canvas, decorating it with brightly coloured flowers and birds, and somehow fashioning some sort of Prince Charming from an absolute Beast.

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