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1930's rural Nova Scotia. Maud Dowley, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, smokes heavily to deal with the pain. Because of her unusual gait from the arthritis, she is often mistaken as a stupid, incapable woman, that perception which does make her feel stupid and incapable. That view is held by her surviving family, her brother Charlie and her Aunt Ida with whom she lives. After an action by Charlie, Maud decides to seek some independence and is the only applicant for a posted job as housekeeper for brusque Everett Lewis, a poor fish seller. Despite not wanting to hire a cripple which only adds to their antagonism, Maud negotiates to get the job for room and board. Their antagonistic relationship ends up including Everett exacting beatings on Maud whenever she doesn't do what he wants. To keep herself happy, Maud begins to paint the interior of the house with happy pictures and paint similar pictures on small cards, these folk art pictures are how she wants to see the world. ...Written by
"The whole of life, already framed, right there." Maud Lewis (Sally Hawkins)
Maud Lewis was a pioneer of the Art Naïve school of folk painting flourishing all over, especially in Canada, and specifically here in Nova Scotia. The quote shows how natural her genius was looking out a window from her 10x12 foot home.
The biopic Maudie thrives on Hawkins' superior acting talent that superficially shows her deformed leg, her debilitation from arthritis, and her emphysema doomsday from smoking. Yet she radiates joy and a keen eye for the simple beauty of life. As she tells her husband, Everette (Ethan Hawke), she doesn't need much.
With no formal artistic training, Maud initially uses a finger to paint a tulip with vibrant colors. She barely looks back as she paints chickens, dogs, birds, and "things," all observed inside and outside the humble cottage on doors, windows, boards, and whatever.
The pain most artists experience in order to express beauty comes for Maud not just from her physical handicaps but from her husband, a rude fishmonger and wood chopper without a lick of humor. He begrudgingly allows her to sell her paintings and pockets the proceeds. However, he loves her in his own crude way and provides the home, albeit no more than two rooms, that spawns the art.
Cinematographer Guy Godfree captures the sweep of open nature that surrounds the town and the intimately colorful interior transformed by her art. John Hand's production design makes her cottage so meticulously authentic that you might wonder if he borrowed it from the Nova Scotia museum that now houses
Beyond the pleasant bio of a charming painter, the love between the two is one of the best romances of the year. It could be because theirs is hardly conventional or because Hawkins and Hawke are super actors. Or both. Love abides, and as Everett says, "There's me. Them dogs, them chickens, then you."
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