It is the 1930s in Marshalltown, Nova Scotia. The young and arthritic Maud Dowley (Sally Hawkins) lives a quiet, lonely life sharing a house with her Aunt Ida and brother Charles. She suffers two serious incidents in quick succession. She becomes pregnant and gives birth to what would be an illegitimate child. Maud loses consciousness and her Aunt tells her afterward that her baby was deformed and died. Then her brother Charles sells their parents’ house out from under his sister, leaving her without accommodation.
Maud applies for the position of cleaning lady to a fisherman Everett Lewis (Ethan Hawke). She is enticed by the room and board that comes with the job. She wins the position and begins a very tough working life. Everett is a rough, non-talkative type. His house is very small and Maud ends up sharing his bed. This creates gossip in the nearby town that Maud and Everett elect to ignore.
To alleviate some of the boredom of her difficult workload, Maud begins painting flowers and birds on the shack walls. Eventually her paintings begin drawing the notice of locals and the occasional visitor to the area. Maud discovers she can sell her paintings for what is–to her and Everett–good money. The story continues with Maud gaining a measure of fame as her paintings become known to Canadian art lovers.
MAUDIE is the heavily fictionalised account of the life of artist Maud Lewis (nee Dowley) and her relationship with the taciturn and difficult Everett Lewis. The script is by Canadian actor, screenwriter and producer Sherry White and it is directed by Ireland’s award-winning Aisling Walsh.
Sally Hawkins’ lead performance is measured and delicate. Maude is a non-confrontational woman who is nonetheless a strong character who has suffered much at the hands of her family. In the beginning, her relationship with Everett is very much at his convenience, but slowly, year by year, she wins him over; he begins to better understand and appreciate the woman with whom he shares a house and then a life. Apart from her relationship, Maudie’s great joy is her paintings. She is a folk artist inspired by nature and her childhood. Ethan Hawke’s Lewis is a gear shift for the actor in that he plays someone very locked down and inarticulate; Everett is a tough, hard-working man who is difficult to like.
Hawkins and Hawke are wonderful as a strange couple who have little to do with the rest of the community. Their life is very prescribed until Maud’s art brings them greater attention. The pace of the film is slow. It unfolds like the passing seasons. It is a great pleasure to watch the work of these two talented and experienced movie actors.
MAUDIE is a quiet drama that needs an audience to fall into its rhythm. If you enjoy art and nature and finely nuanced performances, then this film will repay your time and attention. 116 minutes. (8/10)