Maudie

 

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20th century Nova Scotia is the setting for this story of a woman finding happiness in painting.

 
Maudie

Sally Hawkins as Maud Lewis

 

On paper the unexpected casting of two such very diverse talents as Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke raises hopes that the film which brings them together, Aisling Walsh's Maudie, will be something out of the ordinary. But, as it turns out, they are more interesting than their material as treated in Sherry White's screenplay.

 

Maudie is the story of the naive painter Maud Lewis who lived from 1903 to 1970. Ignoring her earlier years the narrative quite reasonably starts at a time when Maud, a victim early in life of rheumatoid arthritis, is living with her aunt in Marshalltown, Nova Scotia and learns that her brother has ignored her wishes by selling the house that had belonged to their late parents. Badly treated by both of these relatives (although the full extent of that will only emerge late on), Maud shows her independent spirit by moving out to take work as a live-in housekeeper for Everett Lewis. This man is a loner who acts as a peddler of fish and wood while also working in a nearby orphanage. He treats her roughly, yet Maud is drawn to him and encourages the idea that they should marry. It is now that she begins to show her artistic talent, first by painting on the walls of their simple home and then by creating her own Christmas cards. In time that develops much further: she becomes known as a painter, a folk artist, and that ultimately brings her fame.

 

It may be embroidered for the screen, but this is a true story, albeit one that as told here opts for a popular, ingratiating tone, as witness the all-too-obvious music score by Michael Timmins (the film is always better when the music is absent) and the decision to call the film Maudie rather than Maud although everyone calls our heroine by that form of her name. Hawkins in the title role (a show-off part if ever there was one) does to her credit keep it all under control, while Hawke as Everett plays it down and never seeks to hide the unsympathetic side of the character. Some audiences will doubtless warm to all this, but others may have in mind comparisons which underline the rather superficial nature of Maudie. Anyone who saw the 2008 French film Séraphine will be aware of the greater depth and subtlety to be found in that film's presentation of a very similar true story about another disadvantaged naive painter, Séraphine Louis. Furthermore, Maudie is not only the tale of a painter but also a love story about a woman who accepts ill-treatment from the man who employs her but continues to love him nonetheless. Consequently, one can recognise that it has affinities with another film too, that great Italian classic by Fellini, 1954's La Strada. Such echoes only serve to emphasise the limitations of Maudie, but that is not to deny that some viewers will find it highly sympathetic.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Sally Hawkins, Ethan Hawke, Kari Matchett, Gabrielle Rose, Zachary Bennett, Billy MacLellan.

 

Dir Aisling Walsh, Pro Bob Cooper, Mary Young Leckie, Mary Sexton and Susan Mullen, Screenplay Sherry White, Ph Guy Godfree, Pro Des John Hand, Ed Stephen O'Connell, Music Michael Timmins, Costumes Trysha Bakker.

 

Mongrel Media/Rink Rat Productions/Screen Door/Parallel Films/Telefilm Canada/The Irish Film Board-Sony Pictures.
116 mins. Canada/Ireland/USA. 2016. Rel: 4 August 2017. Cert. 12A.