Directed by Aisling Walsh and written by Sherry White, Maudie is a biography of the life and times of Canadian artist Maud Lewis, with astounding performances by Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke. Lee reviews.
Strength is so often explored in film, and yet so seldom is it made to be a human trait. Action as an element pre-empts kicking, punching, shooting, jumping, climbing, running, diving, swimming, driving, flying and other feats of strength typically inherent in motion; yet so rarely do they manage to convey achievability, relatability or even inevitability.
Maudie, a biography of the life of Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis, so perfectly manages to capture the strength not only swelling within the spirit and personality of the woman (and potentially all of us), but in the simple actions of walking, setting down a bowl and, yes, painting. At the same time, it also never belabours the artist’s physical condition as a hindrance to her life; simply just another asset to which she rises above the standards of those around her.
In a screenplay centred on trials of strength, the remaining cast is rounded out by Maud’s bitter aunt, manipulative brother and eventual husband Everett Lewis, all of whom are fractured and difficult people in their own right, and all of whom Maud struggles to live with on a frequent basis, particularly her employer-turned-husband. Yet with Everett and Maud we find a testing ground for the limits of pain, introversion and love in such a flawed, natural manner that you’ll be hard-pressed not to be swept under by their simple, hardy way.
Like most biographies it suffers from a clear indication of where the story intends to go or finish its tour; the chasm so wide in Maud and Everett’s relationship for hardship and compassion it feels indefinite where to draw the line. The film draws a wonderful place to end however, and it won’t matter much when the ride is this warm, touching and often genuinely funny.
Simple and effective direction keeps the key elements of the story always in frame with just a hint of the artistic to read into/be distracted by, acting is stellar and a true showpiece for everyone involved, and so many lame-bait ideas for drama are mercifully avoided, keeping the movie relatively steady and surprisingly melodrama free (for as much as it can afford to be).
Perhaps the slowest and cosiest biography you’ll ever watch, but one that intends to stick with its audience and inspire them in a very honest and simple way; it truly echoes Lewis’ work and life as best the medium can muster.
[Maudie opens to UK cinemas from 4th August.]