Based on a true story, this biopic is both sweet and disturbing at times. It’s the story of Maud Lewis, a folk artist who lived in Nova Scotia. It starts in the 1930s where Maud (Sally Hawkins) is a struggling young woman. Her brother has just sold her parents’ house out from under her, and she is destined to live with her strict Aunt Ida. But Maud wants to live and have fun and paint, despite some crippling birth defects that left her with gnarled hands and a bad leg. So when things get too stifling with Ida, she goes out looking for a way to support herself, and she finds a notice for a live-in maid. What follows is the often uncomfortable love story between Maud and her employer, the misanthropic fishmonger Everett (Ethan Hawke).

Early on Everett lets Maud know her place. It’s him first, then the dogs, then the chickens, and then her. Just so she knows not to expect much from him. She’s just glad to be away from Ida and though he treats her pretty horribly at first (and I was wondering why she even stayed for a while), her optimistic way of seeing the world creeps up on him and he has to admit that he likes her better than the dogs. I’d have to say though that his warming up to her is like watching a glacier thaw, it doesn’t happen quickly. Meanwhile she starts painting, first colorful flowers and birds on the walls, then little paintings of happy scenes on scraps of wood she finds around the property. And when one of Everett’s customers comes to the house looking for him and sees her art and offers to buy one, she begins an art career that eventually brings her international fame. And bit by bit Everett accepts her and her art, to the point that he is doing the housework and she is making a living as a painter, still living in their tiny house far from town.

They are definitely an odd couple. Everett even admits on the day they finally marry that they’re like a pair of mismatched socks. Both Hawkins and Hawke are perfect in their roles. There isn’t a whole lot of dialogue, but the essence of their relationship just pours through the screen. And Maud’s sarcastic asides are pretty hilarious, too. I highly recommend this one.

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