by Toby Woollaston
This small but delightful film is not going to threaten Taika’s superhero behemoth for box-office takings anytime soon, but it’s good to see that there is room in the spring release schedule for something at the other end of the spectrum.
Maudie is a gently observational piece that takes a slice of Canadian rural life and lets a discordant zephyr blow through its fields. Set in Marshalltown, Nova Scotia, the titular Maud, played by Sally Hawkins (Happy Go Lucky, Paddington) suffers a life-long form of arthritis. Through dogged determination, she pursues a passion for painting whilst holding down a job as a housekeeper for the gruff and bad-tempered loner, Everitt (Ethan Hawke). They are an ill-fitting couple that, as Maud quips, are like “a pair of odd socks”. Yet through their differences, they find a commonality that extends to a curiously touching relationship.
Despite the demands of what is a very physical performance, Hawkins displays a wonderful ability to convey emotion through subtle expression. Thankfully, her skills are not lost on Director Aisling Walsh, who elevates this further by letting the camera sit with her performance for long periods. Walsh’s kinetic restraint only serves to enhance this character-driven film allowing their relationship to subtly bristle with drama and the occasional smile. With such a focus on its two protagonists, it is a relief that the chemistry between Hawkins and Hawke (clearly a casting director who likes birds of prey) is one that successfully elevates the film rather than lowers it.
The film is occasionally framed with painterly qualities that mimic her artwork, but on the whole, the visual style is dialled right back and seems to eschew the need to create visual drama where it’s undue. And despite being a little too coy in parts, Maudie is a warm and inviting film that gives Maud Lewis’s true story the telling it deserves.
You can see my published reviews here.