‘Maudie’, the story of the artist who captivated Canadians

‘Maudie,’ co-produced by St. John’s-based Rink Rat Productions, tells the story of Nova Scotia folk artist Maud Lewis. The release of the film — which stars Sally Hawkins as Maud and Ethan Hawke as Everett, and was filmed in St. John’s and smaller communities in 2015 — resulted in an influx of visitors to Halifax’s Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, where her work and her tiny home are kept.

Maudie is a biopic of Maud Kathleen Lewis (née Dowley) one of the most important Canadian folk painters. The picture is a co-production of Ireland and Canada. It was directed by Aisling Walsh, an Irish filmmaker and stars two great actors: Sally Hawkings as Maud and Ethan Hawke as Everett, who becomes Maud’s companion for a long period of her life.

Maud was born in Nova Scotia and lived there her entire life. The picture covers the period from the early 1930s (when she was a young adult) until her death in 1970. The movie provoked some complaints and slight controversies from Canadians citizens, since it was shot in Newfoundland and Labrador (instead of Nova Scotia), a neighboring province whose landscapes share some similarities with Nova Scotia’s but also have notable differences: Newfoundland and Labrador is ‘rockier’ than Nova Scotia.

The movie shows us a good amount of Maud’s painting and through them we can appreciate the landscapes of Nova Scotia and slices of rural life in the province. On the dramatic level, the film achieves to capture the struggles of a woman like Maud, with disabilities and limitations (she suffered from arthritis almost her entire life) in a time when women needed to be healthy, attractive and “with good manners” in order to be respected in society. Maud was exposed to harsh social pressure and discrimination. However, besides the prejudices and the misunderstandings that carried her conditions, she was able to find a meaningful relationship with Everett, a man who eventually became her husband and supporter, a man who witnessed her development as an artist.

Stylistically, Maudie achieves to portrait the aesthetics of Maud’s art: simple, direct, naturalistic and very colorful, paintings that reflect the way she perceived nature and the objects in her surroundings. One can state that her paintings display a “beautiful world” within the “ordinary world”. One can assume that when she was painting, she had eyes focused on pure nature and simple objects, eyes that did not allow human complexities and conflicts to interfere in the creative process.

Maudie is a solid tribute to Maud Kathleen Lewis, and it is a good way to know the life of this artist and the value of her artwork. But it is also a picture that is easy to enjoy. It has an interesting story, it is well acted and constructed.

Original title: Maudie
Release date: 2016
Directed by: Aisling Walsh
Written by: Sherry White
Starring: Sally Hawkins, Ethan Hawke, Zachary Bennett, Gabrielle Rose, Zachary Bennett, Billy MacLellan

Xphilo Liranzo
Journalist, freelance writer. Born in the Dominican Republic, lives in Toronto since 2016 and previously lived in Montréal for two years. Film analyst, novelist, author of two novels in process of editing. He writes reviews of movies, books, and music albums. He is also interested in psychology, sociology, neuroscience, history, sports, health, and well-being. He has some experience in filmmaking (directing and as a screenwriter). Passionate about languages, he is fluent in English, French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. He is also able to read and speak German (intermediate level) and Mandarin (Basic level). You can find most of his articles and reviews on his website: Xphilo.com