Student Critic Grace Hall reviews Maudie (Aisling Walsh, Canada/Ireland, 2016)
More than Maudie
A film project thirteen years in the making, Aisling Walsh’s Maudie pays patient tribute to the career of a deceased Canadian folk artist born in 1903. Advancing from the 1940s in rural Nova Scotia, it follows Maud Lewis’ (Sally Hawkins) transformation from a live-in housekeeper to a painter of national intrigue. While her mobility and confidence levels were shaken by chronic arthritis and family trauma, her kooky sense of ambition assured her success. Beyond the simple joys of art, the film explores the volatile love of Maud’s employer-turned-husband Everett Lewis (Ethan Hawke) and the mourning of a long lost daughter. Between fading health and growing creativity, she is remembered as a fiery character whose life struck a unique happy medium.
Capturing her adoration of nature, the film looks upon seasonal landscapes with gentle, scenic shots and the paint covered fingers which distributed her vision and signature. While the name Maudie sounds affectionate and familiar, the story presents few (if any) examples of it being put to use. Instead, the film records the instances of ridicule and abuse directed towards an alienated painter who always introduced herself by her full name. While capturing a spirit of innocence, its title and content also recalls Maud’s small frame and giddy manners – traits which caused many to doubt her claims to match “the work of five women.”
As a posthumous biopic, Maudie offers a sweet yet exposed portrait that questions the sincerity of a ‘beloved’ reputation in the wake of fame and death. With understated beauty, this film uses a delicate hand and strong will to paint many pictures; from the colourful canvases sold near a weathered outhouse to the humble features of its residing talent.
Grace Hall is 22 and studies Film and Media at Queen Margaret University.