Maudie–Anything but Maudlin

 

Guest post by   Romalyn Tilghman, author of To the Stars Through Difficulties 

 

Maudie the movie

Maudie

Maudie is the fictionalized account of the life of a self-taught artist, Maud Lewis (1903-1970), who lived in Nova Scotia. Maud (played by Sally Hawkins) answers an ad from fishmonger Everett Lewis (Ethan Hawke) to clean his filthy, one-room shack shared with his chickens and dogs. Despite rheumatoid arthritis and slowness of speech, Maud becomes dedicated to serving him. Everett, having grown up in an orphanage and now living miles from town, epitomizes the curmudgeonly, reclusive bachelor.

The dialogue in Maudie is sparse, showcasing the actors’ gestures and facial expressions. The Nova Scotia landscape is stark but beautiful and so is the evolving companionship between Everett and Maud. Their relationship is never easy, but we watch as their respect, codependence, and even love, builds over the course of the movie, despite the ever-present tension.

Maud’s cheerful folk-art paintings bring not only light to their small wooden cabin but also to a larger art world thanks to a New York benefactor. The patroness instantly sees the appeal of Maud’s colorful trees, cats and birds, at first created only with the remnants of house paint.

I was disappointed that Maudie didn’t reveal more of the joy the artist must have felt in her own work. Photographs, of both the real Maud Lewis and her paintings, are featured in the end credits and show clearly that such joy did exist. But, despite watching a difficult relationship in hard times, we do understand that windows of light may frame the vast and sometimes dark landscape which includes our psychological home. As Maud finds cheer beyond the walls of her ramshackle home, she tells us, “The whole of life is already framed.” She shows us a new way of seeing our world.

Note: One of the voices in my novel, To the Stars Through Difficulties, is of a 30-something self-taught artist, nicknamed Trash, who was rescued from a garbage can on Times Square when she was only hours old. Using only recycled materials, she finds her own worth through self-expression and art-making. As an artist-in-residence in Kansas, she discovers both fulfillment and friendship.

 

“Boyhood”–Childhood is Never Easy

 

BoyhoodFilmed over 12 years with the same cast, “Boyhood”  is like no other movie made in Hollywood.  This groundbreaking story feels like a documentary, not a scripted narrative written and directed by Richard Linklater (of “Slacker” fame), who films  intermittently for five days each year over an eleven-year period (from  2002 to  2013).  The decade-long time-span for shooting the story is in itself pioneering, but “Boyhood” is so much more.  This coming-of-age story is about all families, families we know and families we grew up in.  It is not exclusively about boys, although there are scenes encapsulating maleness.  “Boyhood” is more  about all of us: growing up and growing old.

The viewer is pulled into the film, almost as a voyeur.  We see the  beautiful six-year old boy,  Mason (the phenomenal newcomer Ellar Coltrane),  grow to eighteen years old, encompassing the baby-faced  charm, but also the  pain, of early childhood through the indecisiveness of adolescence with a single mom and a well-meaning  father ill-equipped for either parenting or marriage.  “Boyhood”  opens with a sudden decision by Olivia (Patricia Arquette),  the lovely but exhausted single mother, to move to Texas in order to start a new life with her two children, Mason and Samantha (Lorelei Linklater).   The drifter dad Mason Senior (Ethan Hawke) insinuates himself into their lives.  There is no place any of them can call home.    Boyhood 2

 

 

 

Everyone in the family makes very poor choices.  As the story unfolds, there are other possible outcomes , different from what actually happens, but equally viable. When Mason, now eighteen years old, is asked: “Do people seize moments or do moments seize them?”  Mason replies:  “We are always in the moment.”  And “Boyhood” reveals the ever-constant present that replays our past. That is part of the genius of “Boyhood”, although the pacing is at times uncomfortably slow.

Ultimately, “Boyhood”  belongs to the young actor Ellar Coltrane who plays the boy Mason.   Lorelei Linklater, as his sister, Samantha,  also shares center stage for underscoring the tensions of everyday family life.   I wouldn’t be surprised if this movie  becomes a film classic!