Written by: Sherry White
Directed by: Aisling Walsh
Starring Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke
Nova Scotia folk artist Maud Lewis may not be a name you immediately recognize, but it soon will be. Born in the early 1900’s with rheumatoid arthritis, a severe degenerative condition, this rather sickly and awkward looking woman struggled in every aspect of her life. But her struggle became a story that inspired the new film “Maudie,” written by Sherry White and directed by Aisling Walsh. The film is cinematic splendor as Sally Hawkins recreates Maud and co-star Ethan Hawke portrays Everett in one of his strongest performances yet. This unusual love story tells an equally unique life story filled with courage, strength, inspiration and beauty.
Maud’s physical differences have always brought judgement upon her, not only from outsiders, but sadly, from her own family as well. She is dismissed, feeling worthless, but this bright and witty woman strikes out on her own, yearning to prove them all wrong. There is a sense that there is another deeper, more sensitive story bubbling just below the surface, but that has yet to be revealed. Answering an “ad” posted at the local store for a housecleaner, Maud meets Everett (Hawke), the local fishmonger. He reluctantly hires her and the man of few words attempts to keep her at a distance. Over the course of time, Maud is allowed to blossom which in turn creates a connection and courtship between the two. To say it is an unusual situation and “dating” process, is to put it mildly, creating wonderful humorous moments. The pair is odd, but the beauty from within easily becomes the only thing visible. Their relationship, however, has some very rocky parts, as all relationships do. As we witness this journey seen primarily through Maud’s eyes, we feel her pain and her anger, but also laugh and cry with her as well.
“Maudie” explores this creative woman’s trials and tribulations to become one of the most recognizable folk artists in the area, but it also presents what it must feel like to be judged by an outwardly different appearance. Maud is exceptionally bright, organized, and has a wickedly sarcastic sense of humor that those around her find the verbal sword to be quite sharp. We truly get to know who this woman is and what she has endured, particularly within her family. While there is heartbreak, there is also laughter. It’s an extraordinary slice of life that reaches your very soul, allowing you to experience everything that Maud feels and does. Rarely do you find such a compelling story with well-rounded characters that you immediately understand and connect. In fact, you are lost in their world, forgetting that you are watching a movie.
It is under the direction of Walsh that Hawke and Hawkins create such captivating characters. Both actors seem to connect whole-heartedly with their rather unorthodox roles as they beautifully reveal their personalities. Hawkins embodies the character of Maud, exhibiting with finesse a body riddled with arthritis. Her ability to convey the myriad number of emotions and wounds not yet healed from past tragedies is simply exceptional. Her delivery of parenthetical quips and demonstrating that she doesn’t buy into gender inequality as she goes against the grain of the locals just endears us to her even more. Casting Hawke opposite Hawkins is a choice that pays off as he becomes this tight-lipped, uneducated and unsocialized loner. Hawke exudes power not seen before in other films as he becomes this sometimes unlikeable and other times lovable very real person. Together, Hawke and Hawkins play to one another’s strengths and catapult this story to the highest level.
The film is also cinematically stunning, bringing you through the rolling, desolate country roads near the sea. We are transported to a bygone era that is dusty and primitive, influencing and inspiring the very art that Maud will forever be known for. “Maudie” orchestrates every element in filmmaking to create not just an entertaining film, but also a meaningful and magical one.
Experience the magic of “Maudie” and travel the trails of Maud Lewis’ past, riding an emotional roller coaster ride filled with unusual and richly layered characters. “Maudie” is a timeless love story that will leave you breathless, speechless, and inspired. You can’t ask for more than that in a film.