Maudie – a movie review by Roz Tarszisz

August 22, 2017 by Roz Tarszisz
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In this engrossing story of triumph over physical adversity, you have to wait for beauty to emerge.  

Maud Dowley (Sally Hawkins), riddled with rheumatoid arthritis and unable to walk straight,  is an unlikely heroine but she has an inner beauty that translates into her paintings.

Based on a true story, Maud is shunned and lonely, staying with her disapproving Aunt Ida (Gabrielle Rose) in a fishing town in Nova Scotia, Canada in 1938.

When she learns that her brother Charles (Zachary Bennett), has sold their late parents house and there is no going home, she is desperate for independence.  She wangles her way into a job as housemaid for the reclusive Everett Lewis (Ethan Hawke).

He lives in a two room shack with no electricity or running water, but there’s plenty of wood for the fire.  Everett, a taciturn loner, works hard – doing odd jobs and selling fish – and as nobody else applies for the job, reluctantly lets this bright-eyed, hunched over woman with gnarled hands into his home.

Maud, whose housekeeping skills are limited, is determined to stay.  Everett lets her know she sits at the bottom of his list of priorities but as they slowly find a way of co-existing, she wheedles her way into what passes for his affections.  Despite her deformity, she has a talent for painting – using any materials to hand like bits of scrap board, shells, biscuit tins.   She starts painting the inside walls of the house, wherever she is able to reach, and her joyous outlook on life is reflected in her art.

When a visiting New Yorker Sandra (Kari Matchett) woman spies her work, she asks Maud to paint some cards for her.  As the years pass, Maud gains recognition as a genuine folk artist with Everett selling her artworks from their home.  By the time President Nixon is in power, she is commissioned to supply two paintings for the White House – for which she insists on payment up front.

The story centres on the unlikely romance between the reclusive Everett and this woman with a twisted body and indomitable spirit.   She gets her own way by stealth, the sweetness of her shy smile showing a sense of humour.  Everett takes the money her work generates but their living conditions hardly improve. They eventually marry although Maud has been signing her work Maudie Lewis for years.

This is a beautiful film and Hawkins’ performance is outstanding and believable.  Hawke keeps his mouth in a perpetual grimace to denote a man who has led a miserable life.  Wait for the credits to see some examples of the actual artist’s work. She must have spent her life in great pain but her positive outlook shines through in the products of her imagination.

4/5 2016   Rated PG  116 mins Released 24 August

Starring Sally Hawkins, Ethan Hawke

Directed by Aisling Walsh

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