If Forrest Gump where a female, Canadian folk artist you would get Maudie. This film is a biopic about the late artist, Maud Lewis who was born a “little different” and whose story is one that is likely to charm some theatregoers. This movie is ultimately a rather romanticised view of her creative and impoverished life.
Maud Lewis née Dowley (played by the magnetic, Sally Hawkins (Happy Go Lucky)) had rheumatoid arthritis and was exploited a few times during in her life. When Maud’s mother passed away her brother (Zachary Bennett) sold their childhood home and left his sister in the care of their overbearing aunt (Gabrielle Rose). Maud craved freedom and decided to go and work as a live-in housemaid for a gruff and reclusive miser named Everett Lewis (Ethan Hawke) in a tiny, rural shack. Maud carved out her own happy existence there, but their relationship was a rather strange one.
Everett was a poor fishmonger who was content living in a dilapidated, old house. He tells Maud early on that the pecking order in the household is himself first and then the dogs, chickens and finally Maud in the last place. He is also a mean old bully. He actually slaps her on at least one occasion and he is also emotionally abusive.
This film is a slow and nuanced drama that focuses on elements of their marriage of three decades and Maud’s rise to fame in the art world. There is no doubt that Maud softened Everett’s character and brightened up his house. She decorated the place with lots of childish and innocent paintings. She also eventually produced similar images on cards and boards that the couple sold initially for a few cents and then eventually for some dollars. President Nixon was apparently one famous owner of one of her works. This film seems to straddle the lines between showing the brutal reality of the couple’s living conditions and being a life-affirming and palatable story for the masses.
Maudie is a multifaceted film about a modest and optimistic self-taught artist who refuses to succumb to her life of poverty and her debilitating arthritis. It’s a film that features brilliant performances by the two lead actors even if the script by Sherry White sometimes ventures into some questionable territory. This film is ultimately one that celebrates Maud and her love of painting and it’s a reminder that love and talent can be found in the most unlikely place.
Review Score: THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Maudie releases in select Australian theatres August 24, 2017.