[Film Review] Maudie (2016)

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Title: Maudie
Year: 2016
Country: Ireland, Canada
Language: English
Genre: Biography, Drama, Romance
Director: Aisling Walsh
Writer: Sherry White
Music: Michael Timmins
Cinematography: Guy Godfree
Cast:
Sally Hawkins
Ethan Hawke
Kari Matchett
Zachary Bennett
Gabrielle Rose
Billy MacLellan
Lawrence Barry
David Feehan
Marthe Bernard
Rating: 8.2/10

Maudie 2016.jpg

A biopic of the arthritis-inflicted Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis (1903-1970) from Nova Scotia, directed by Irish female director Aisling Walsh, and starring a transmogrified Sally Hawkins as the scraggly Maud and Ethan Hawke as her fish peddler husband Everett Lewis.

In the abstract, Maud’s life is hardly newsworthy, there is no oceanic discrepancy before/after she accrues a certain renown (Richard Nixon is interested to acquire one of her works), she and Everett have never moved out of their pokey cottage. To all intents and purposes, Walsh remarkably skates over the theatricality-ready liaison between Maud’s physical defect and her immeasurable talent, the disability is a congenital condition for her to inure, a cross to bear but never her defining feature, and it is up to Hawkins’ diligent yet histrionics-free incarnation to ram home to audience her distinct physical form is part of the furniture of her identity, it never deters her life-long pursuit.

What undergoes a fine-tooth comb is Maud and Everett’s complex relationship, the jumping-off point of their co-habitation is out of pragmatism other than anything remotely affecting, he wants a housemaid and she wants to slough from the clutches of her officious aunt Ida (Rose). For Maud, it is a precarious gamble because she throws herself on the mercy of Everett, who grudgingly takes her in (initially appalled by her unsightly appearance) and belittles her in the lowest rung in his bare-bones household: him, dogs, chickens, then her. At one point, Maud can only squeeze some wry but ironic laughter after being referred as “a love slave” of Everett, she is a slave to him without question, but there is no love involved.

Maud’s tremendous effort of thawing the illiterate Everett’s unsavory make-up (inarticulate, churlish, penny-pinching, machismo… you name it) offers a most therapeutic, wholesome and alternately heart-warming/heart-wrenching narrative arc by virtue of writer Sherry White’s sensitive, sensible and no-hyperbole script; Walsh’s unobtrusively observant tack against a muted but fetchingly beauteous scenery; soothing ear-worms (e.g. Lisa Hannigan’s LITTLE BIRD) and needless to say Hawke and Hawkins’ stupendous performances.

Hawke is unexpectedly against type to give an uncouth Everett a humane transfiguration that mostly hinges on ineffable expressions, a look, a mumble, a gesture, greatly pins down a reticent man’s innate foibles but also his rough diamond sheen. On the other hand, Hawkins, formidably sinks her teeth into the character body and soul, a vivid impersonation of an enabler, a fighter and most of all, a human whom we can all vicariously project ourselves in on different levels, a true testimonial of why humanity is still worthy of redemption and sympathy in our cynical world.

Maud’s last word is “I am loved”, and MAUDIE is a treasure trove where love can germinate from a most barren place, a superlative folksy delight and heartening character study, kudos to those talents who are involved in the film’s timely genesis.

referential point: Martin Provost’s SERAPHINE (2008, 7.8/10)

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