Sally Hawkins gives the performance of her life as real-life Canadian artist Maud Lewis. Forced into living a reclusive life and riddled with crippling arthritis, Maud is desperate to escape her existence as a social pariah. Her salvation comes in the form of a flyer left by a rough-and-tumble fish pedlar, Everett (Ethan Hawke), seeking the aid of a ‘woman’s touch’ in his home in Newfoundland. Unsure of his new housekeeper at first, Everett slowly falls in love with Maud and the two embark upon an unlikely and insecure marriage.

The film serves to remind us that everyone has a story to tell. Maud’s joy in life becomes painting, embracing cheerful landscapes and canvases of flora and fauna. But there is more to Maud: she’s a prisoner of her time, with her perfect contentment tempered only by the whims of her bullish and chauvinistic husband.

Watch the international trailer for Maudie below:

The storyline can be laborious, but the performances delivered by the two leads, steered by director Aisling Walsh, lift the film above and beyond. Their relationship is the focus of the film, with most of the screen time located in a one-bedroom home, drawing the audience into the characters’ suffocating world through their crisp dialogue, unspoken love and disdain. Hawke’s merciless grunts shape his character as a man horrified by the mere thought of ever showing his sensitive side, while Hawkins creates a pure portrayal of a woman whose desire is to escape into any sort of simplistic contentment.

This is a movie for anyone who secretly believes in their heart of hearts that suffering and despair offer the only lifestyle worth living.

The film’s biggest (and only) fault is the run time. It may be the filmmaker’s intention to deliver to the audience the same inescapable melancholy felt onscreen, but with little to no plot available (a passing mention of Vice-President Nixon’s interest in Maud’s paintings aside), there is no reason for it to last nearly two hours. Shaving 30 minutes off would have created a much tighter, dialogue-driven drama rivalling Hawke’s brilliant Before Sunrise trilogy. That aside, Maudie will captivate your attention for most of the film’s length, even against your reasonable doubts going in.

This is a movie for anyone who secretly believes in their heart of hearts that suffering and despair offer the only lifestyle worth living. It’s no Romeo And Juliet, but there is a deep and intriguing connection between these two that lasted until their dying days.

Maudie arrives on Australian screens on Thursday August 24.

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