MAUDIE (Ireland|Canada/TBC/115mins)
Directed by Aisling Walsh. Starring Sally Hawkins, Ethan Hawke, Kari Matchett, Zachary Bennett, Gabrielle Rose.
THE PLOT: Maud (Sally Hawkins), an arthritic young woman who is never truly treated as an adult by her aunt Ida (Gabrielle Rose) and her brother Charles (Zachary Bennett), longs for her freedom. To achieve her goal, Maud becomes the live in housekeeper of the surly and cantankerous Everett (Ethan Hawke), and in their small house in Nova Scotia love and Maud’s ability to paint are nurtured.
THE VERDICT: Based on the life of Nova Scotian folk artist Maud Lewis, ‘Maudie’ is a charming film, completely carried by the strong and compelling performances from Hawkins and Hawke. The trouble arises in a saccharine sweet soundtrack that tries to paper over some of the cracks in the film, and a lack of focus in the story.
Sally Hawkins leads the cast as the tenacious, charming and sweet Maud. It is easy to believe that Maud is a character who is just rebellious enough to find the confines of her aunt’s house stifling, but there is a lot more going on underneath the surface of Hawkins’ performance. Hawkins makes Maud a likeable, tough and wilful character, who knows what she wants and what she will tolerate; a character who begins to knock the rough edges off her anti-social husband. Ethan Hawke obviously has fun with the character of Everett, constantly looking as though ht is chewing a particularly angry wasp, and irresistibly charmed by the tiny woman who has forced her way into his life. The two work well together on screen, with Hawkins knocking the rough edges of Hawke, and the chemistry between them lighting the film up from within.
Experienced TV writer Sherry White – who has episodes of ‘Orphan Black’, ‘Saving Hope’ and ‘Rookie Blue’ under her belt – has created a screenplay for ‘Maudie’ that utterly focuses on the tenacity of the title character. Although Maud is a fantastic character, and the relationship between Maud and Everett on screen is a beautiful one, there are times when the film loses focus, and it is not clear if the story is one of love, one of acceptance or one of just not taking no for an answer. The dialogue is strong, however, with Maud having some smart and quick comebacks that bring the character to life.
As director Aisling Walsh – who previously brought us ‘Song for a Raggy Boy’, ‘The Magdalen Laundry’ and episodes of ‘Fingersmith’ – focuses all of her energy on the relationship between Maud and Everett, but in doing so, allows some of the sub plot points to rear their heads and then fall by the wayside. This means that every so often, the focus is taken away from the central characters lives together, but not for any satisfying reason, leaving the audience wondering just why these issues were raised in the first place. Add to this a saccharine sweet score and an unnecessary montage set to music, and the shine quickly rubs off this charming and engaging film.
In all, ‘Maudie’ is a film that suffers from a lack of focus when it comes to the story, and it is never clear just what the central theme of the film is. That said, Hawkins and Hawke are fantastic together, and a joy to watch on screen, but a stronger focus could have moved ‘Maudie’ from a curiosity to a strong and moving film.
RATING: 3.5/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

  • filmbuff2011

    It may not seem like much on the outside, but Irish-Canadian co-production Maudie is a film with a quiet power that slowly but surely charms its way into your heart.

    It’s based on the life of Maud Lewis, played here by Sally Hawkins. She was a small, mousey woman who lived in Nova Scotia with her family. Struck down with arthritis, she nevertheless used her talent as an artist. Seeking independence from her controlling mother and brother, Maud takes up a position as a housemaid to fish peddler and farmer Everett (Ethan Hawke). Or at least she tries. Their first encounter isn’t so promising. He’s a gruff, unfriendly man who couldn’t care less and scares her away. Despite that, Maud comes back and tries to win him over. She moves in and starts cooking and cleaning, but she’s way down the pecking order. Even the dogs and chickens get more status from Everett. Despite that, she brightens up his place with her simple but colourful paintings of country life. This is the first step in Maud becoming a local icon…

    Aisling Walsh’s first feature since the little-seen horror The Daisy Chain in 2008 is a film that is commendable in its steadfast refusal to bow to convention or to be anything other than what it is. It’s a simple true story about a simple woman but told in a fashion that makes it direct and heartfelt. Sherry White’s script takes its time setting up the characters, matched by Walsh’s unfussy, unhurried direction. That’s not to say that it’s slow. It’s more to say that we really get to know Maud and Everett and hopefully understand what made this odd couple tick. In a sense, they complemented each other – the gentle woman who tamed the heart of a bitter man burnt out by life.

    Originally set to star Rachel McAdams and Sean Bean, Hawkins and Hawke are more than up to the challenge. They may play ordinary folk living in ordinary times, but their performances are rich with nuance and character. Hawkins gives a very physical performance, using her slender frame, hunched shoulders and avoidance of eye contact as a way to convey Maud’s station in life. It’s a beautiful, unshowy performance which draws you in. Hawke swings from cruel to gentle depending on the scene – not the easiest of characters to portray. Yet, he manages to find the humanity of Everett – something only an actor of his calibre could do. Walsh adds a welcome dose of humour at times, while keeping the story on track. Maudie is more of autumnal film, but it’s a breath of fresh air in the the last few weeks of the summer silly season. Well worth seeking out. ****