Review: Sally Hawkins is extraordinary in the demanding title role of Maudie

Sally Hawkins as Maud Lewis in biopic of folk artist Maudie. Picture: Sony Pictures/Duncan de Young

Sally Hawkins as Maud Lewis in biopic of folk artist Maudie. Picture: Sony Pictures/Duncan de Young - Credit: Archant

Director Aisling Walsh's moving drama paints a dignified portrait of Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis, who weathered agonising rheumatoid arthritis as she shared her vision of the world in brightly coloured paintings.

Ethan Hawke as Everett Lewis and Sally Hawkins as Maud Lewis in Maudie. Picture: Sony Pictures/Dunca

Ethan Hawke as Everett Lewis and Sally Hawkins as Maud Lewis in Maudie. Picture: Sony Pictures/Duncan de Young - Credit: Archant

Maudie (12A)

****

Sometimes, just sometimes, life turns out OK. In a remote community in Nova Scotia, Maud (Sally Hawkins), a woman afflicted with severe arthritis, decides that her life choices are so bleak that becoming a house maid to a gruff, anti social fish peddler (Ethan Hawke) in his tiny one room shack, is her best option.

During the opening exchanges, as the two leads trade thespian tics – Hawkins offering an array of hobbles, twisted limbs and hunchbacked hopefully smile; Hawke responding with quizzical squints, fraught gurns and stilted anger – I sank despairingly into my chair.

Sally Hawkins as Maud Lewis in biopic of folk artist Maudie. Picture: Sony Pictures/Duncan de Young

Sally Hawkins as Maud Lewis in biopic of folk artist Maudie. Picture: Sony Pictures/Duncan de Young - Credit: Archant


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Our redemption is art. Maud likes to paint and people begin to admire, and buy, her simplistic, naive landscapes. Her painting is respectfully defined as 'Folk Art': the kind of painting your child could do, but somehow never does.

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The film has a similar aesthetic. There are no extraneous details, no explanations, no flourishes, just the simplicity of life. The barren terrain sucks the show out of these two potential showy performances. They bend to the force of the landscape and become real. There's too much proper work needs doing for any thespian extravagances to be indulged.

The film is a celebration of the simple pleasure of existence, which is a difficult thing to get across effectively in the movies but this succeeds through being very sparse and straightforward.

Throughout the film you can sense the way that the script has bent and shaped the truth of Maud and Everett's life to fit into something like a conventional dramatic scheme, but the centre of the film is still just the pair of them, simply existing, getting by, looking on the bright side of a life that many people would feel was more of a hell.

What really impresses is the way it captures the sense of a life lived.

The film's two hours follow Maud from her early thirties to her death and in that time you get a real feeling of having seen the essence of a life pass before your eyes.

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