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MAUDIE: 4 STARS. “a quiet movie with nicely wrought moments.”

“Maudie,” the true story of folk artist Maud Lewis, is a romantic movie about a physically challenged woman who found beauty in life’s simplicity.

Born with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis that left her undersized and frail, Maud Dowley (Sally Hawkins) was shunted around to relatives in her youth. Told she couldn’t look after herself she was treated like an outsider by her family and rural Nova Scotian community. “Some people don’t like it if you’re different,” she says. In a bid to get out from under the thumb of her controlling aunt she answers a help wanted ad at the local general store. It leads her to Everett Lewis’ (Ethan Hawke) rundown one-room shack. He’s a man of few words, raised in an orphanage, now a loner who ekes out a living selling fish and chopped wood.

“You walk funny,” he says, unsure she’ll be up to the job. “You a cripple? You sick?”

“I was born funny,” she replies.

The circumstances are rustic in the extreme but for room and board plus $0.25 a week spending money she agrees to try and turn the shack into a home. To pass the time when she isn’t cooking and cleaning, she retreats into her art, painting colourful landscapes on the walls of the house. She paints flowers, birds and a portrait of their prize chicken—now a long ago digested meal—so, “we can remember his happier days.”

As romance blossoms between this odd couple Maud’s art—handmade postcards, paintings—slowly gains fans, including Vice President Richard Nixon who purchased a landscape by mail. As Maud’s increasing recognition threatens Everett’s simple way of life their union becomes strained.

“Maudie” is a quiet movie with nicely wrought moments. The excitement and joy that spreads across Hawkins’ face as she negotiates her first big sale—$5 a painting plus $1 for postage—is infectious and touching. Later, a muted but emotional reconciliation is heartfelt without being showy or obvious. This is a movie about small moments, an exchanged look, a caress. Like its real life inspirations the film is unpretentious, occasionally gruff but always honest and truthful.

Hawkins is remarkable as the determined Maud. Frail but indomitable, she is a classic movie heroine, a woman who succeeds against all odds. Hawke is a solid presence, gruff on the outside and, if not exactly mushy on the inside, then at least open to love. They are, as Maud says, “like a pair of odd socks.”

Director Aisling Walsh is unafraid to tug at the heartstrings. He sometimes errs on the emotional quality of the score, pushing towards the saccharine, but Hawkins and Hawke always rein it in before we get too much of a sugar rush.

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