Susan Granger’s review of “Maudie” (Sony Pictures Classics)
Sally Hawkins delivers an exquisite performance as eccentric Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis.
Set in the late 1930s in rural Nova Scotia, Maud has been crippled since childhood with rheumatoid arthritis. Cheated out of her parents’ inheritance by her selfish brother Charles (Zachary Bennett), she’s sent to live in Digby with her stern, spinster Aunt Ida (Gabrielle Rose), who treats her as if she’s feeble-minded.
Determined to make her own way in the world, indefatigably optimistic Maudie spies a HELP WANTED ad in the general store and trudges several miles on a dirt road to the tiny, ramshackle cottage owned by surly fish-peddler Everett Lewis (Ethan Hawke) to apply for the job as his live-in housekeeper.
Since no one else will come near him, grumpy Everett grudgingly hires Maudie, although he constantly berates her, curtly telling her that his dogs and chickens are more valuable to him than she is.
Resolutely cheerful and creative, Maudie slyly finds time to paint while doing her chores, dabbing colorful flowers and vibrant birds on the shelves and walls of Everett’s 10’ x 12’ house, along with any scraps of wood she can find.
Everett’s verbal abuse of Maudie continues until, one day, a visitor (Kari Matchett) from New York City shows interest in buying some of her decorative artwork. That prompts enterprising Maudie to post a sign: “Paintings for sale.”
Meanwhile, Maudie and Everett get married, and she gradually confides shameful secrets from her past which, eventually, lead to a deeper understanding of her loneliness and need for independence.
Scripted as a simplistic biopic by Sherry White, splendidly photographed by Guy Godfree, and sensitively directed by Aisling Walsh, Maudie’s spirited plight strikes a poignant chord, culminating in a short clip from Diane Beaudry’s National Film Board documentary “Maud Lewis: A World Without Shadows.”
Along with Maud’s artwork, the Lewis’ little house is on display in the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Maudie” is a simplistic, sincere 7, an improbable success story.