An explosion of love, beauty, and colour mark this loveliest of Canadian stories: the life and death of Maud Lewis. A arthritic Nova Scotian growing up in the 1920s, Maud spent much of her early life being protected by her familial guardians until, which is where Maudie begins, she sets out to break free.
Sally Hawkins inhabits this famed Canadian artist physically and emotionally, bringing to the screen a women of staggering resolve and creativity, despite her limitations. Upon leaving her somewhat pampered yet sheltered life, she finds a notice left in local store of a man seeking a live-in housekeeper.
She is denied the opportunity, initially and for some time, by Everett Lewis (Ethan Hawke), a gruff, fiercely independent fisherman who lives by himself in a small house on a quiet trail removed from most livelihood. Eventually he relents, but not before much confrontation that continues between the two opposites.
The charm and careful navigation by Hawke makes his character likeable over time, which isn’t the easiest task considering the way he talks to and treats Maud in the beginning of their arrangement. It takes her time to warm to him as well. Hawkins, meanwhile, sees her character maintaining both her integrity and ingenuity in working to stay where she is: her independence is tied to working with and living with Everett.
Of course the two do draw closer to each other, in natural and cute ways that neither feel forced nor contrived. Aisling Walsh directs on a script by Sherry White on what is a quiet but vibrant love story, one that sees the bond between Maud and Everett grow as Maud begins to paint.
And paint she does! A spot on the wall adorned with a flower grows to the entire wall, to multiple walls, to the window and beyond. A once dreary abode is enlightened, and soon Maud finds outsiders interested in paintings. It’s a serene and sincere piece of filmmaking, which makes your stay in the at times claustrophobic house initially uncomfortable, and eventually an uplifting, joyous stay.
Maudie allows its two sage and talented actors to control the film, which spans decades but never drags, triumphs the hope of Maud without ever becoming melodramatic or cliche. It’s a tender, winning story about a most winning woman.