Without love, there is no purpose.

A stellar, warmly persuasive performance by Sally Hawkins as the disabled, self-taught, Nova Scotian painter Maud Lewis is the raison d’etre of Maudie. A sort of Canadian, female variation on My Left Foot, Irish director Aisling Walsh’s film is a sympathetic and observant look at a social outcast who became a pioneer of the Art Naïve school.

Poster for the biopic of Maud Lewis entitled MaudieAt its heart, Maudie is the story of two eccentrics who get together when Maud (Hawkins), a hobbled, odd-looking woman suffering from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis agrees to keep house for Everett (Ethan Hawke), a crabby, antisocial misfit who makes a living peddling fish.

Certainly Everett’s grumpy personality would give pause to anyone but the most desperate potential partner. He makes it clear that Maud ranks third in importance in the household, after his dogs and chickens. At the same time, sharing the same bed leads to other eventualities. ‘We’re like a pair of odd socks,’ Maud observes once they settle into their own peculiar version of marital accord.

Starting by adding colour to little things around the house, then to walls and nearly everything else, Maud begins painting. Eventually, she puts out a sign: ‘Paintings for sale’. And so begins a modest but ever-growing career for this peculiar woman who paints everyday objects in a simple, one-dimensional fashion that possesses an undeniable appeal. She knows she has it made when the Nixon White House buys some of her work.

But there are always problems, including Everett’s way of dealing with his lack of self-esteem, which is to take it out on his wife. As time goes on, Maud’s arthritis gets so bad it’s painful for her to hold a brush, and even after developing emphysema, she can’t stop smoking.

Hawkins’ performance splendidly carries the day. With the cards stacked so high against her, Maud all but flaunts a gallant lack of any expectations; for this reason, she can truly and gratefully say, near the end of her life, ‘I was loved’.

Maudie is, in its own eccentric way, a classic success story against the odds, the tale of an extreme underdog who achieves a measure of success and happiness.

– Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter

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