Maudie artfully traces the true story of Maud, an arthritic woman who, abandoned by her family, finds comfort in painting.
The film follows the development of her painting, and also her relationship with her husband, a gruff and unkempt Everett Lewis (Ethan Hawke).
Sally puts on a stellar performance as Maud, whose setbacks in life begin with her arthritis, but are much more- with the loss of a child, and an abusive family. Yet Maud's character stands far outside of her disability, and, more memorable than anything else is her sass. There are many 'victims of life' in this story, but Maud is not one of them. There is, in fact, there is an interesting juxtaposition between a recalcitrant Everett, and the sweet and happy Maud.
Though side by side, Maud's painting and Maud's are worlds apart, and it's hard to look at them under the same light.
Maud's folk paintings are bright and charmingly innocent- one can't help but fall in love with them. The confusion comes when Maud and Everett's marriage is cast alongside. The film 'paints' the relationship somewhat similar to how Maud painted her art, smoothing over emotional and physical abuse with bright colours. Moments shared between the couple are a jarring mix of (almost) sweet, and (starkly) brutal- I found myself unable to barrack for the relationship. For such a strong character, to hear her defend herself with 'I'm better than a dog', feels more than a little uncomfortable.
In a sense, the film does stay true to the original story, and doesn't idealise a marriage that was not ideal, but the end result is occasionally jarring. This airbrushing effect carries even over to the house they live, where any real estate agent would be impressed by the facade- a ten by twelve-foot shack recast as 'quaint', and an abusive husband relabelled 'gruff'.
However, Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke carry the story through with depth and emotion in what could otherwise be an unrelatable relationship, and the audience is left with nothing but respect and love for Maud. The film is not cliche and does not play the pity card. While it hardly contains a single 'healthy' relationship, Maud's sweetness and resilience stand out and save the storyline. One of Maud's greatest one liners is when she receives a request from President Nixon for a commission piece for the White House, and replies with 'if he didn't send the money, he's not getting a painting'.
The film is well shot, with the muted Newfoundland scenery contrasting Maud's brightly coloured, somewhat Norwegian, painting style. While it's unclear how we are supposed to react to The 'romance', if you look beyond the inconsistencies, there's a story worth telling, and certainly worth watching.
Image Courtesy of Maudie FB
"I love a window, a bird whizzing by, it's always different, the whole of life already framed right there." - Maudie