Saturday, 26 August 2017


Transmission Films

Much like the artist herself, Aisling Walsh's Maudie, penned by Sherry White, is a modest biopic of the Nova Scotian painter.

Born with rheumatoid arthritis, and deemed incapable of looking after herself by her aunt and brother, Maud Dowley leaves the conditional comfort of her aunt's home when she replies to an advert on the general store noticeboard calling for 'a woman to keep house'.

That house, such as it is, sits on the outskirts of town and belongs to curmudgeonly jack-of-all-trades, Everett Lewis (Ethan Hawke). An orphan who's made his own way in the world, Everett's not about to give free rein of his home to a stranger, not immediately anyway. "It's the dogs, them chickens, and then you", he tells Maud, matter-of-factly, when it comes to the Lewis household pecking order. (The occasional domestic violence also underlines Everett's position.)

Still, Maud decides to stay; cooking, cleaning, and brightening up Everett's weather-beaten shack with her unique landscape paintings boasting brightly coloured flowers and trees, birds and bees (which the pair eventually get around to exploring, biblically, but not before Maud makes Everett put a ring on it).

Maud's paintings soon capture the attention of locals and then, a TV documentary crew. As her fame grows, and her arthritis worsens, her relationship with Everett, like most marriages, experiences up and downs. Aisling's film is no ground-breaker in cinematic terms, but she's fortunate to have two such strong leads.

Sally Hawkins's portrayal of Maud is never showy. Lopsided and gnarled from her arthritis, it's the smile on her face and the glint in her eye, and the occasional emotional outburst that make Maud, and Hawkins' portrayal memorable. It's an award-worthy performance without being "an award-worthy performance".

And Ethan Hawke once again proves to be an excellent support for his female lead; making the gruff, occasionally brutal Everett sympathetic. He may be all rough edges, and growls and grunts, but Hawke doesn't allow for Everett to be reduced to caricature or 'the villain'.

Their relationship may have been problematic, especially when viewed through a 2017-lens, but together Maud and Everett were a perfect fit. Maudie is by no means a masterpiece, but Hawkins and Hawke brighten and deepen its canvas immensely.

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