Maudie is a 2016 biographical romantic drama film directed by Aisling Walsh and starring Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke. A co-production of Ireland and Canada, the film is about the life of artist Maud Lewis, who painted in Nova Scotia. It was shot in Newfoundland and Labrador, requiring a recreation of Lewis's famously small house.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Aisling Walsh|
|Written by||Sherry White|
|Music by||Michael Timmins|
|Edited by||Stephen O'Connell|
|Distributed by||Mongrel Media|
|Box office||$7.8 million|
It was selected to be screened in the Special Presentations section at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival and won a number of awards at other festivals. After festival screenings and wider releases, Maudie received positive reviews.
In Marshalltown, Nova Scotia, Maud Dowley is an arthritic woman with an Aunt Ida and brother Charles in the 1930s. Maud is shocked to learn that Charles has sold their family home, which their parents had left to him. In the meantime, she is berated by Ida about visiting the local nightclub. Maud had once been impregnated and gave birth, but Charles and Ida told her that the child was deformed and died.
At a store, Maud sees the inarticulate and rough fish peddler Everett Lewis place an advertisement for a cleaning lady. Maud answers the call and takes the position for room and board. Everett's house is very small, and the two share a bed, causing scandal in the town, with gossip that Maud is offering sexual services. While attempting to clean the shack, Maud paints a shelf. She then begins painting flowers and birds on the walls, for aesthetic improvement. She meets one of Everett's customers, Sandra from New York City, who is intrigued by Maud's paintings and buys cards Maud has decorated. She later commissions Maud to make a larger painting for $5.
Maud persuades Everett to marry her, while her paintings receive more exposure in print coverage and sales begin at the house. U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon even contacts the Lewises to purchase one. After the couple appears on TV news, Everett becomes disturbed that local viewers see him as cold and cruel. Ida, increasingly ill, also saw the coverage, and Maud wishes to see her before Ida dies. Ida tells Maud that she is the only Dowley who ever found happiness, and confesses Maud's baby girl did not die. Believing Maud could never care for a child, Charles had adopted the baby out to a family for a price. Maud is devastated, and Everett becomes convinced the relationship has brought nothing but emotional anguish. The two separate.
After Everett and Maud reconcile, Everett takes her to the home of the adoptive family, where Maud sees her grown daughter for the first time. However, Maud's physical state is deteriorating, and she dies at the hospital, telling Everett she was loved.
According to producer Mary Sexton, attempts at a biographical film about Maud Lewis were made for 10 years. After screenwriter Sherry White's work was submitted to director Aisling Walsh for consideration, she opted to commit to the project, claiming she contacted her agent after reading only approximately 30 pages. Walsh said the film "celebrates this woman who was rather amazing". The subject of the film painted despite rheumatoid arthritis, with Walsh remarking, "She worked so hard at it and in such tough conditions sometimes". However, the filmmakers made the decision not to emphasize Lewis' physical conditions, as it was not the entirety of her identity. Walsh also described Lewis' biography as "a very Canadian story, it's a very Nova Scotian story".
Walsh sent actress Sally Hawkins, a hobbyist painter, photographs of Lewis, and Hawkins attempted to imitate Lewis' style in her art. Sean Bean was cast as Everett Lewis, but left the project due to other commitments, and was replaced by Ethan Hawke. Hawke accepted the role for his fondness of Atlantic Canada, owning property in Guysborough, Nova Scotia.
The film was shot in Ireland and Newfoundland rather than Nova Scotia, where Lewis painted, while film production became rarer in Nova Scotia as crews moved to Toronto and British Columbia. Producers believed Newfoundlanders could provide more funding for cinema, while the project also received financial support from Ontario and Ireland, the latter being where Walsh and much of her team were from. The Nova Scotia government reduced its film credit program in 2014, which has also been cited as a reason the film was not shot in the province. Maudie was filmed in areas around St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador in fall 2015, with finances from the Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation. Walsh felt the landscape of Keels and Trinity Bay was reminiscent of the Digby area in the 1930s and 1940s.
In life, Lewis had a very small house, at 10 ft × 12 ft (3.0 m × 3.7 m), and Walsh wished to be accurate in creating a replica, but the recreation of the house had to be enlarged to accommodate a film crew. Walsh personally painted some of the flowers on the walls. The crew also gathered houseflies for weeks to depict an infestation of the house, particularly for the scene where Maud attempts to persuade Everett to buy a screen door.
Maudie had its world premiere at the 2016 Telluride Film Festival, before screening at major Canadian film festivals, including as a gala at the Atlantic Film Festival, the Calgary International Film Festival, and the Vancouver International Film Festival. It was featured in the Special Presentations section at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival, and was screened at the 2017 Berlin International Film Festival.
The film's wider Canadian theatrical release took place on 14 April 2017 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver. Plans were made for it to screen all weekend in Halifax, during which the newly found painting Portrait of Eddie Barnes and Ed Murphy, Lobster Fishermen, Bay View, N.S. would be on temporary exhibit in the Scotiabank Maud Lewis Gallery located at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. It subsequently opened in Edmonton, Calgary, Montreal, Victoria, British Columbia and Winnipeg on 21 April. Sony Pictures Classics acquired the rights to distribute the film in the U.S. for 16 June. On 27 April, it was showing on 30 screens, half of which were in Atlantic Canada, while Mongrel Media planned releases in the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia and Japan by the end of 2017.
In Canada, the film grossed $1 million by 3 May, on 76 screens. It placed first in the Atlantic box office, grossing $4,000 during each showing. Mongrel claimed that in some theatres, Maudie outperformed the mainstream action film The Fate of the Furious.
In its first three days in the U.S., Maudie made $49,842 in four theatres in Los Angeles and New York, a decent performance in niche cinema. As of 8 August 2017[update], the film has grossed $5,109,733 in North America and $2,113,035 in other territories, for a worldwide total of $7,222,768.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 88% based on 105 reviews, with an average rating 7/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Maudie's talented cast -- particularly Sally Hawkins in the title role -- breathe much-needed depth into a story that only skims the surface of a fascinating life and talent." On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating, the film has an average score of 65 out of 100, based on 34 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
In Variety, Peter Debruge said the Lewis character stood out for "indefatigable optimism", despite living conditions given her gruff husband and small home. The Hollywood Reporter critic Todd McCarthy commended the photography and Hawkins for "A stellar, warmly persuasive starring turn". Jordan Hoffman rated it three stars in The Guardian, predicting Hawkins would attract much notice for her performance. The New York Times critic Manohla Dargis wrote Maudie overcame viewer skepticism, and cited Hawkins for bringing Lewis out. Alan Scherstuhl, writing for Village Voice, assessed it as "hit-or-miss" but a tear-jerker, praising Hawkins in particular. The A.V. Club's Ignatiy Vishnevetsky said the film lost its momentum in character development over the runtime.
In Canada, Kate Taylor, writing for The Globe and Mail, gave the film three stars, crediting Walsh for making the story moving but not mawkish, for not dwelling on Lewis' physical condition and for communicating the significance of making art. Chris Knight awarded it three and a half stars in the National Post, commending Hawke for a "committed yet unshowy performance". The Toronto Star's Peter Howell gave it three stars, declaring it "award-worthy" and praising Hawkins for "dignity and determination". Luc Boulanger gave it three stars in La Presse, saluting Hawkins and expressing regret Lewis' art was obscure in Quebec.
At the 2016 Vancouver International Film Festival, where Maudie was the opening gala, it won the Super Channel People's Choice Award, the top audience award at the festival for feature films.
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s)||Result||Ref(s)|
|ACTRA Awards||25 February 2017||Outstanding Female Performance||Kari Matchett||Nominated|||
|Atlantic Film Festival||15-22 September 2016||Best Atlantic Feature||Aisling Walsh||Won|||
|Best Atlantic Screenwriting||Sherry White||Won|
|Canadian Society of Cinematographers||1 April 2017||Theatrical Feature Cinematography||Guy Godfree||Won|||
|Cinéfest Sudbury International Film Festival||17-25 September 2016||Best Feature Film||Aisling Walsh||Won|||
|Montclair Film Festival||May 2017||Audience Award||Aisling Walsh||Won|||
|Vancouver International Film Festival||29 September-14 October 2016||People's Choice Award||Aisling Walsh||Won|||
|Writers Guild of Canada||24 April 2017||WGC Award||Sherry White||Won|||
During the 2017 Nova Scotia election campaign, CTV host Steve Murphy asked Premier Stephen McNeil if he rued the reduction of the film credit after Maudie moved to Newfoundland. McNeil replied the production had already moved by the time the decision was made.
The film stimulated a resurgence of interest in Lewis' work, with Consignor in Toronto moving her painting Three Black Cats to more prominent exhibition space in spring 2017 and reporting great attendance. The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia reported 3,134 people came to see Lewis' work and house, relocated there, between March and the beginning of May, an increase from 2,084 the prior year. An Ontario charity auction for a Lewis painting sold for $45,000, surpassing the most previously paid for a Lewis painting, $22,000 in 2009, while Portrait of Eddie Barnes and Ed Murphy, Lobster Fisherman, Bay View, Nova Scotia, estimated to be worth $16,000, sold for more than double. After the theatrical release, prints of London, Ontario artist William Johnson's 1969 portrait of Everett Lewis, Maudie's Window, were also sent to Museum London.
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