‘Maudie’ Review: Visual Art as Memory

Aisling Walsh’s film about Canadian artist Maud Lewis is one of the most interesting depictions of an artist on film to date.

Maudie is a film that stays with the viewer hours, even days, after watching. The sharp slap of Everett Lewis’ (Ethan Hawke) hand across the titular character’s face; the juxtaposition of a drab, run-down home against the Canadian painter’s simplistic, bright colors; Sally Hawkins’ thoughtful, nuanced performance. These are just some of the moments that linger in the mind, with the film’s director Aisling Walsh practically painting Maud Lewis’ experiences into the viewer’s minds, becoming a part of the viewer’s memory.

It’s this very idea of shared experiences and memories that haunt Maudie. By documenting Maud Lewis, a beloved Canadian folk artist from Nova Scotia, Maudie is immediately intrinsically linked to memories – it’s attempting to reconstruct them on screen, after all. What’s more, with the film portraying a reclusive artist’s big break, Walsh and screenwriter Sherry Write easily could have strayed into Big Eyes territory. That is, taking a complex story about betrayal and authorship and turning it into an inspiring success tale. Whilst Big Eyes certainly has its merits, almost exclusively Amy Adams’ performance, Maudie thankfully averts the predictive tropes that befell Burton’s 2014 film.

Instead, Walsh’s film basks in its nearly two-hour run time to create a slowly-paced narrative that never feels rushed, despite showing Maud’s life from her painterly beginnings to her death. In fact, as the film goes on, it becomes clear to the viewer that Maudie is not concerned with time. (The only indicator Walsh gives to the passing of time is the uncontrollable physical appearances of the film’s two central characters or the alien-like cameras that intrude on Maud and Everett’s lives). The film prefers to present time, and the world, through Maud’s perspective: as a simplistic beauty that never fades…

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