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Review: Maudie -“One of the best films of the year”

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Although the whole “based on a true story” label is being irritatingly overexploited by film marketing teams these days, especially in Hollywood, one of cinema’s greatest pleasures is indeed the chance to unearth amazing tales about people we didn’t even know existed. In Maudie’s case, you will discover the incredible story of an extraordinary woman who, albeit ridden with suffering, let her ordinary life take her to an unexpected place of happiness, love and fulfillment.

Born in 1903 in Nova Scotia, Maud Lewis was a Canadian Art Naïve painter, aka someone who lacked formal education and training in art history, technique and perspective. She suffered from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, which affected her growth and development, to the point of becoming hunched and deformed with a twisted back, gnarled up arms and hands and pains in her legs and feet.

Maud’s biggest suffering, however, was most likely emotional as she lost both her parents at a young age and was sent to live with an old aunt in another town. An outsider yearning to belong, once in her 30s and longing for independence in spite of her condition, she eventually spread her wings by answering Everett Lewis’ ad for a housekeeper.

A grumpy loner in his 40s, Everett lived off collecting scraps and peddling fish, staying on the fringe of society in a tiny house without running water and electricity. Maud did her best but her physical impairment didn’t exactly make her the most efficient at her domestic chores yet she wound up taking care of Everett on a rather more significant level.

The film kicks off in 1938 when Maud (Sally Hawkins) first meets Everett (Ethan Hawke) and covers a period of 30 years focusing on the unlikely romance that develops between these two loners, who both need love and compassion. Maud in fact takes advantage of her free time to nurture her passion for painting and when her work grabs the attention of one of Everett’s customers, she begins selling her art, gaining the man’s respect and support.

What becomes immediately clear, however, is that Maud isn’t remotely fussed by the attention. Even when tourists begin stopping by the little house to seek out her paintings and a TV troupe shows up for an interview, Maud remains the same ordinary woman who approaches painting as her passion rather than a job. Her greatest piece of work is probably the little home itself, which she starts decorating bit by bit, from walls and shelves to stairs and windows – something that still exists, preserved in a museum in Nova Scotia.

Critically acclaimed and award-winning Irish filmmaker Aisling Walsh (Song for a Raggy Boy, Joyriders, The Daisy Chain, Wallander), who directs from a script by Canadian writer Sherry White, wanted to be a painter before her detour into filmmaking. She couldn’t have been a better fit to bring this amazing true story on the screen as her sensibility perfectly captures the essence of Maud’s life and her complex relationship with the misanthropic Everett.

Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke shine in these roles. Before credits roll in fact archive footage gives us a glimpse of Maud and Everett and it becomes immediately obvious how the actors simply nailed their performances, despite the lack of resemblance with their real-life counterparts.

An intense, authentic, heartbreaking yet hopeful emotional journey about the meaning of love, happiness and life itself, Maudie is a moving tale about an exceptional woman, beautifully told by talented women filmmakers, which will poignantly strike many chords with male viewers as well.

Undoubtedly one of the best films of the year, much deserving of awards season buzz, it will surprise you and challenge your views on love, marriage and life. More importantly, if you have any sort of artistic aspirations, it will also inspire you to follow your passion and lose yourself in it, regardless of whether or not it will ever turn into a career, just like Maud did.

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One Comment

  1. I am totally in love with this movie. Everyone should watch it.

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