Maudie: Life in colour with Hawkins and Hawke
by Bénédicte Prot
- BERLIN 2017: Dublin-born director Aisling Walsh tells a moving story that depicts US naïve painter Maud Lewis’ pure and unadulterated take on life, starring Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke
It’s always a pleasure to watch the bubbly Sally Hawkins, after she delighted the Berlin Film Festival in 2009 with her performance in Mike Leigh’s Happy-Go-Lucky [+see also:
film profile], scooping the Silver Bear for Best Actress in the process. In Maudie [+see also:
film profile] by Dublin-born director Aisling Walsh, an Irish-Canadian co-production that is one of the special screenings at the 67th edition of the German gathering, the British actress is just as luminescent, and when it comes to delivering a performance, she clearly doesn’t do things by half, easily and gracefully overcoming the risks that playing a disabled person on film often entails (with all its clichés and its condescension dressed up as tenderness, and so on).
Indeed, her character, based on US naïve painter Maud Lewis, is a small but feisty woman, quick-witted and brimming with energy, but afflicted by a serious form of osteoarthritis, which right from the get-go excludes her, as someone who is different, from the community of villagers living amidst the sometimes snowy, sometimes resplendent prairies of Nova Scotia, Canada, in the 1950s-1960s. But she is an independent and determined woman (but never loses a single ounce of her cheerful geniality, her sense of humour or her zest for life), and so in order to escape from a life under her aunt’s thumb, she begins to partake in the rough-and-ready life of Everett (Ethan Hawke, whose charisma obviously manages to shine through in simply any role), a grumpy old chap who sells fish and lives somewhere off the beaten track in a modest shack, but is looking for someone to come and help him with the housework.
A truly moving love story hesitantly starts to blossom between them, in much the same way as the little flowers and multi-coloured birds that Maud paints gradually start to spread across every plank of wood in the hut. This fragile and well-measured dynamic between the two characters (who up to that point had been prisoners, each in their own way) goes hand in hand with the story of Maud’s path as a painter, a journey that is also moving in itself, as it proves that when a point of view as unusual and beautiful as that of this young woman manages to express itself, it does not go unnoticed.
Maudie was produced by Irish outfit Parallel Films, and Canada’s Small Shack Productions and Painted House Films. Mongrel International is in charge of selling it overseas.
(Translated from French)