Starring Sally Hawkins, Ethan Hawke, Kari Matchett, Gabrielle Rose
The life of Maud Lewis was extraordinarily ordinary, riddled with arthritis, spine deformities, the Nova Scotia woman had every reason to be unhappy. Yet, her life was filled with beauty, color and happiness. Irish director Aisling Walsh taps into everything that made Lewis a national sensation and brings an entirely new wave of interest to the fascinating little woman. Sally Hawkins (Happy Go Lucky, Blue Jasmine) gives a master class, Oscar worthy performance as the title character; It’s the career defining work that can end an awards race before it’s even begun. Cinematographer Guy Godfree makes the subdued landscape of the Canadian province come alive in exterior shots that balance out the meticulous work he does inside the tiny little house where the Lewis couple reside.
“I was born funny, but don’t stop me from doing the work of five women,” Maud (Hawkins) defends her unusual appearance when responding to local curmudgeon Everett Lewis (Hawke) advertisement. Maud abandons her verbally abusive Aunt Ida (Rose) to go live and work for Everett in his tiny house away from the town. When she speaks out of turn he explains things very simple, it’s his way or no way, the dogs and chickens come before her. While Everett spends the day trading and selling, Maud uses her down time painting. She paints flowers on the window, birds on the wall, and leaves on the door. When the gruff fisherman questions who gave her permission to paint everywhere, she responds in her calm, upbeat way, “You said make the place look alright. I think it looks alright”. Eventually her work expands to small boards and cards, grabbing the attention of locals, becoming a newsworthy tourist attraction.
Hawkins gives a master class, Oscar worthy performance, the career defining work that can end an awards race before it’s even begun.
Maudie (her eventual nickname from Everett) functions as a celebration of life for Maud Lewis, a love story and the year’s most humbling cinematic experience. Hawkins both captures the soul of Maud in her physical and emotional performance, but along with the screenwriter, works to fill in the gaps of this private woman. The artistic liberties taken to make Maudie a fully functional film are honorable and necessary to fill in the gaps. Both writer Sherry White and director Walsh have crafted a picture that’s so accessible for a wide variety of audiences. The beats of humor Hawkins successfully jabs in there are worthy of every chuckle and further demonstrate her versatile talent. The chemistry between Hawkins and Hawke is magnificent, both actors disappear into the roles and deliver the best work of their careers. Hawke continues to challenge himself, and with Everett balances a lot of different complex emotions.
As much as Maudie is a performance based picture, Godfree’s exteriors visually aid the secluded life of these individuals. He chooses faint sunsets, early morning sparse color which contrast the vibrancy of Maud’s artwork. Having Maud walk behind Lewis as he pushes his delivery cart in one scene, inside the wagon looking outward, and then eventually facing Everett, is a beautiful understated representation of their relationship. The simplicity of life, genuine love, and humanity captured within the 117 min running time never veers into sentimentality that other filmmakers might have embraced. Maud breaks Everett’s hateful mood with kindness, and in the process, reminds us that attitude is a choice. Maudie transports the viewer to a specific time and place, leaving us with far more, than whatever the ticket cost.
Hawkins extraordinary performance is something to witness, Maudie is a humbling cinematic experience.