After I saw Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water, I wondered where this marvelous actress had come from. Turns out that the British-born Hawkins has been working steadily, including the 2016 film Maudie, which my sister-in-law Amy told me about. I dowloaded Maudie from Google Play store, and used Chromecast to watch the film on my TV. Maudie is actually biographical, which I didn’t find out until the end when the real Maudie Lewis and her dour husband appeared briefly on screen.
Maudie Lewis was a Canadian folk artist who suffered from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, which worsened over the course of her life. She also smoked heavily and developed emphysema. She died at age 67 in Digby, Nova Scotia, in the tiny house where she lived with the taciturn and abusive Everett.
I like to see a film first, then read the reviews. Apparently the film glossed over how miserable Everett truly was; Ethan Hawke played a character that was emotionally limited but loving. The real Everett was perhaps more of the former and less of the latter, with a good dollop of physical abuse thrown in. Sally Hawkins does a brilliantly quiet job playing Maudie, moved to paint despite her overwhelming physical limitations and despite living in terrible poverty and with such a harsh man. The emotional depth of the film is crystallized in the moment that Maudie finds out from her unloving Aunt Ida that the infant daughter Maudie bore had not in fact died, but was sold by Maudie’s brother Charles to a couple who wanted a baby to adopt.
This is a woman who was surrounded by cold, unloving people, wracked with a painful and increasingly crippling illness, living in a cold and austere place — who nonetheless created joy with brightly colored paint, sometimes applied with the tip of her finger.
I’m a big Sally Hawkins fan. I think the Oscar race is between her and Frances McDormand for 3 Billboards — which I also loved. I’d hate to have to vote between the two.