Urban Cinefile  
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Saturday February 1, 2020 


SYNOPSIS: Sickly and frail, Maude (Sally Hawkins) is so eager to escape from the claustrophobic world around her Aunt Ida (Gabrielle Rose) and money-hungry brother Charles (Zachary Bennett), that she applies for the job of housemaid to Everett (Ethan Hawke) a bad-tempered local misfit who chops wood, sells fish and has no friends. Maude begins to paint little cards and later larger works in her folksy way and slowly Everett and Maude get used to each other. Their relationship develops into something more, even as Maude's arthritis becomes chronic and her paintings attract some attention in the wider world beyond their isolated little cottage. (Based on a true story.)

Review by Louise Keller:
Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke play two misfits who find each other in this heartfelt portrait of arthritic painter Maude Lewis. Based on a true story, the strength of the film lies in Hawkins' gritty performance, bringing courage and authenticity to the title character, whose determination and courage in the face of adversity is inspiring. Sherry White's screenplay and director Aisling Walsh adequately bring together the elements, although the exposition is fragmented, offering us snapshots rather than a seamless journey. While neither of the central characters is especially likeable, it is the dynamic of the unusual relationship between them that sparks our interest.

Totally devoid of vanity and self-consciousness, the diminutive Hawkins portrays Maude with great veracity. Maude is a small woman with rheumatoid arthritis. She has a pronounced hunch in her back and her spindly legs look as though they would easily snap in the freezing snow of the film's picturesque Nova Scotia setting. Her stubborn determination counters her physical disabilities: she refuses to play the victim. Literally jumping at the opportunity (she jumps to reach the notice the grouchy Everett has pinned to the local store's noticeboard), Maude applies for the job of housemaid to Hawke's antisocial fish peddler and jack-of-all-trades. Never mind that Everett's house is the size of a gable-roofed doll's house, with only one bed and the pecking order is Everett, the dogs, the chicken, then her....

Maude's painting begins innocuously. She paints a shelf. Then she begins to almost doodle to make herself feel better. On the walls, the windows, the mirror and on pieces of timber she finds outside. She paints flowers, birds, fish, a fat chicken, a house, people, cats... With their bright colours and na•ve brush strokes, the paintings are simple and child like in their appeal. But they become noticed - first by Kari Matchett's Sandra, a friendly New York visitor with snazzy shoes, then the locals and eventually even the White House buys one. Suddenly she is in demand.

While Hawke does his best to characterise Everett as foul-tempered and unappealing, he cannot quite help display his natural charisma. Nonetheless, there is merit in their odd-couple and the story-strand concerning Maude's lost child is effectively woven into the plotline. Look for the scene when Maude and Everett sit on a swing and talk about whether or not they can make a future together. The understatement is moving. The film offers a wonderful sense of place with indelible images of Hawkins' Maude hobbling along the unforgiving roads literally and subliminally battling the elements.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Oscar nominated for her supporting role in Blue Jasmine and Golden Globe winner for her wonderful performance in Happy Go Lucky, Sally Hawkins tackles the role of real life Maude with extraordinary depth and sensitivity. It is the film's greatest achievement, driving the emotional journey for the audience. It's a bitter sweet story, much of it more melancholy than uplifting, but engaging enough as a dramatic insight into a life lived despite the drawbacks. She had many drawbacks, from her health and her looks to her family, and her sad love history, which provides the film's most poignant moment.

Ethan Hawke grumbles his way through a roughly drawn character, but his gradual opening up is thanks entirely to Maude; this is well delivered in stabs of nuance by an actor who knows his craft.

The missteps in the film are twofold: the passage of time is unclear and confusing, from the opening close up of Maude trying to paint with arthritic hands in what turns out to be a flash forward, to the time jump into her later years. The lack of continuity in her arthritis is also distracting ...

Although the material is slight, the humanity and its universality make it cinematic, if not entirely satisfying.

Email this article

Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

(Ireland/Canada, 2016)

CAST: Sally Hawkins, Ethan Hawke, Kari Matchett, Zachary Bennett, Gabrielle Rose

PRODUCER: Bob Cooper, Susan Mullen, Mary Sexton, Mary Young Leckie

DIRECTOR: AislingWalsh

SCRIPT: Sherry White


EDITOR: Stephen O'Connell

MUSIC: Michael Timmins


RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes



© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020