Saturday, April 21, 2018
Directed by Aisling Walsh and written by Sherry White, Maudie is the story of the life of the folk artist Maud Lewis and the work she created as well as struggling with her arthritis and other issues while working for a fish peddler as his housekeeper before they would marry. The film is an exploration of a woman who would create art that would prove to be meaningful while she would also find people who would care for her upon being rejected by her actual family as Lewis is played by Sally Hawkins. Also starring Ethan Hawke, Kari Matchett, Zachary Bennett, Gabrielle Rose, and Greg Malone. Maudie is an intoxicating and rapturous film from Aisling Walsh.
The film is an unconventional bio-pic of sorts on the life of folk artist Maud Dowley Lewis from her time as a young woman in 1930s Nova Scotia to her death at the age of 67 in 1970 that included her marriage to a surly fish peddler in Everett Lewis (Ethan Hawke) who had been her greatest supporter. The film showcases how Maud would meet Lewis as she started out as his live-in housekeeper who isn’t exactly fond of her yet would realize her value as he is also amazed by her paintings. Sherry White’s screenplay opens with Maud living with her Aunt Ida (Gabrielle Rose) who hasn’t been happy about Maud’s sense of rebellion forcing Maud to wanting to find her own place as she is upset over her brother Charlie (Zachary Bennett) for selling their mother’s home. It’s when she picks up an ad that Lewis had posted at a general store where Maud would meet Lewis at his small house where he collects and sells scraps as he’s reluctant to hire Maud due to her arthritis but realizes what she can do to help him.
The character of Lewis is a loner who isn’t fond of anyone as he just wants to work as he would soften little by little toward Maud as he sees that her work would bring in some money after it gets the attention of one of Lewis’ customers in a New Yorker named Sandra (Kari Matchett) who would later commission Maud’s work. Though Maud would get some attention, it wouldn’t sit easy with the reserved Lewis who isn’t fond of the attention nor the way he’s seen by the public. Yet, it is Maud who brings the goodness in him despite his surly behavior that can display a cruelty at times.
Aisling Walsh’s direction is mesmerizing for not just the recreation of the paintings and Lewis’ home but also the world that Maud lived in as much of the film was shot in the Canadian island of Newfoundland as well as parts of Ireland, the Canadian province of British Columbia, and Toronto. While Walsh would use some wide shots of the locations, much of the direction is focused on close-ups and medium shots to go for something simple as it opens with a close-up of Maud’s hands as she is making a few paintings. The usage of intimate shots would play into how small Lewis’ home is both upstairs and downstairs as it sort of represents the lack of wonderment that Lewis would have until Maud would paint the walls and such to make it more presentable.
Since the film takes place in the span of decades, Walsh never reveals what year or period it’s set in order to play into Maud and Lewis’ developing relationship as well as the evolution of Maud’s artwork and how it got all of this attention. Even as it would relate to Maud’s own life where she revealed that she had a child that died of childbirth as well as secrets about her own family relating to her Aunt Ida and her brother Charlie that would come into play. Notably as it would mark a test for Maud and Lewis as it relates to the latter who is convinced that he’s not good enough for Maud or anyone when it really isn’t true as Maud would do something to ensure that he would get his share of the work she’s done. Overall, Walsh crafts a tender yet ravishing film about the life of an artist and her relationship with a loner fish peddler.
Cinematographer Guy Godfree does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography in emphasizing on the film’s natural look for the different seasons in the exteriors as well as the usage of low-key lights for some of the interiors at the Lewis home. Editor Stephen O’Connell does excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with some rhythmic cuts to play into the drama as well as a few montages to play into the development of Maud and Lewis’ relationship. Production designer John Hand, with set decorator Dara Hand plus art directors Shelley Cornick and Owen Power, does amazing work with the look of the home that Lewis lived in and how small it is to its evolution from being something magical due to Maud’s paintings as well as some of the places they go to. Costume designer Trysha Barker does fantastic work with the costumes as it is largely casual to play into the simple look of Maud and Lewis without emphasizing too much on the evolution of the times as they chose to wear the clothes they wore early in the film.
Hair designer Peggy Kyriakidou and makeup designer Mary Sue Heron do terrific work with the look of Maud and Lewis in how they would age throughout the years without overdoing the aging process in order to retain the youthful spirit of the two characters. Sound editor Steve Munro does superb work with the sound as it is largely low-key to play into the natural elements of the sounds including the painting scenes and the sound of winds in the location. The film’s music by Michael Timmins is wonderful for its folk-based score that largely uses string instruments including some electric guitars and such to play into Maud’s artwork while music supervisor Wayne Warren provides a similar soundtrack that features music from Mary Margaret O’Hara, Lisa Hannigan, and Margo Timmins of Cowboy Junkies.
The casting by John Buchan and Jason Knight is marvelous as it features a few small roles from Greg Malone as Mr. Hill who runs the local orphanage where Lewis gets an occasional meal at times, Gabrielle Rose as Maud’s Aunt Ida who is concerned that Maud wouldn’t be able to take care of herself until she sees her years later where she reveals a major family secret, and Zachary Bennett as Maud’s brother Charles who would sell their family home without her consent and later see her when she becomes famous offering to help out much to the chagrin of Lewis. Kari Matchett is excellent as Sandra as a customer of Lewis from New York who discovers Maud’s paintings and would commission the paintings and help them get exposure in and out of Canada.
Ethan Hawke is incredible as Everett Lewis as this gruff fish peddler who is a recluse of sorts that isn’t really fond of people and keeps to himself believing he’s not someone that can be loved. Finally, there’s Sally Hawkins in a phenomenal performance as Maud Dowley Lewis as the famed folk artist who suffers from arthritis yet would create art work that is simple yet enchanting as it’s a performance that is physically demanding yet never showy as well as the sense of tenderness that Hawkins brings to her character where she and Hawke have this chemistry that is endearing as it play into Maud’s humanity.
Maudie is a sensational film from Aisling Walsh that features tremendous performances from Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke. Along with its ensemble cast, gorgeous locations, and a somber folk-based score, it’s a bio-pic that doesn’t play by the rules while being a character study of a woman who would find inspiration in her environment and through the man whose heart she would win over. In the end, Maudie is a spectacular film from Aisling Walsh.
© thevoid99 2018