Maudie: Beautiful biopic of a painter

A biopic
Written by Sherry White
Directed by Aisling Walsh

I went into this beautiful story without knowing that it was based on the life of a real person. I came out wanting to know more about Maude Lewis, a painter of moderate renown from Nova Scotia. Her paintings are colorful, simple, and cheerful. She lived in a rural, coastal area, mostly in a tiny house which she shared with her husband.

Judging from the film, it was a very difficult but ultimately loving relationship.

When we first meet Maude (Sally Hawkins) she’s in her thirties, partially crippled with arthritis, and desperately unhappy. Her only relatives, a brother and an aunt, treat her horribly.

To escape them, she takes a live-in maid job with Everett (Ethan Hawkes). He lives alone until Maude arrives, and the two living together is something of a scandal in 1930s Nova Scotia. He doesn’t seem to be much of an improvement over her family. He’s gruff, and often mean, with a face masked with anger, grief, and worry. He insists that he comes first, the dogs second, then the chickens, and finally Maude.

And yet, here in this little cabin, Maude blooms as an artist. Painting is her joy in life; she can’t not do it. And much to everyone’s surprise, her works become another source of income for the couple.

And yes, they become a couple. They slowly learn to tolerate each other, care for each other, and love each other. They marry.

But life is never easy for them. As she ages, Maude’s arthritis worsens, making life difficult. She’s upbeat by nature, but Everett broods and worries. His wife’s moderate fame bothers him. He’s the man of the house, and he should be making the money. Even worse, he has no emotional way to deal with the people who now flock to his cottage. When a TV show films them in their home in the 1960s, Everett makes a fool of himself on television.

Hawkins and Hawkes both give excellent perfornances – something we’ve learned to expect from both of them. Hawkins has often played inherently happy women (see Happy-Go-Lucky), but her Maude radiates under conditions that would send most people into depression. And, of course, there’s the technical challenge of playing someone with a physical disability.

Hawke’s Everett has nothing wrong with him physically, but something in his past (we never know what) must have ruined him inside. His face is an almost constant scowl. He angers easily, and at one point turns violent. He knows that he’s not as smart as Maude, and it bothers him. And yet, as the story progresses, he open up his heart and lets the love in, even if he can’t really express it.

Maudie is a visually beautiful movie. How could it not be? It’s about a painter and was shot on the Nova Scotia coast.

This is a touching, loving, and beautiful movie.