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Maudie

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

Maudie

Maudie is a beautiful piece of art that offers the perfect alternative to summer blockbusters. Director Aisling Walsh took elements from the work of writer Sherry White and stirred them gently until the whole quite literally silenced the theater. The elements: two astonishing performances by Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke, stunning photography of the empty countryside, and the deep sensitivity of director Walsh.

Sally Hawkins’ Maude is a woman in her mid-thirties who carries the physical effects of early onset arthritis and an early childhood illness that left her with a stooped posture. Fragile she may be, but she is otherwise sharp, shy, and uncommonly stubborn. Her brother (Zachary Bennett) has left her in the care of her poisonous Aunt Ida (Gabrielle Rose). Desperate to escape, Maud presents herself at the ramshackle house of fish peddler Everett Lewis (Ethan Hawke) in answer to his advertisement for a maid.

Their prickly relationship develops through ups and downs as Maud paints pictures of all the bits of nature she sees on her walks. Her flowers will cover the walls, the stair risers, mirrors and all paintable surfaces in their house. In a relationship rooted in need, neither is willing to change. He gives her shelter and she keeps it clean. She has the freedom to paint the world around her as she sees it. He has a clean house and the uncluttered time to sell fish and firewood.

The needy couple walks separately and sometimes together along miles of a dirt road to town for the few supplies they can afford. It is then that director Walsh works more magic. The two on that endless road are small dots against the majesty of the landscape (Nova Scotia, but filmed in Newfoundland). Walsh’s camera teaches us quietly that no one in this area has money or material things. The glory of the landscape is not theirs to enjoy but to survive. With her silent camera, she captures the stark nature of their relationship along with the poverty imposed by the vast landscape. She never teaches. She simply gives us the beauty of the story in the quietest way. We are watching the power of serious creativity.

When Maud’s paintings begin to sell while Everett takes over a bit of her housework, she says quietly: “we’re like a pair of old socks.” In the simplicity of their surroundings, the only change will be the tenderness that creeps into their lives. Otherwise nothing changes the fact that they deal in basic necessities and with whatever lies unexpressed in their heads on those long, long walks. Maud sees the golds, reds, and whites that will become her flower paintings, Everett can’t say anything right, but we know he has mellowed just a little.

We watch two fine actors who absorbed all the subtleties used by their director. Together the three took us to a faraway place both physically and emotionally, and it’s a place we will all remember.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : Maudie
Word Count : 497
Running time : 1:55
Rating : PG-13
Date : June 18, 2017

 

The Lovers & The Wedding Plan

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

The Lovers & The Wedding Plan

The barren movie landscape of early summer brings us two movies that, if not great, are worth the trip for some of you. THE LOVERS focuses on the boredom of a middle aged couple who indulge in affairs to lighten their lives. The Wedding Plan follows a young bride deserted by her fiancé who decides to find a new groom and proceed with the wedding. Each movie probes the ingredients of marriage at different ages. One is American made, the other is entirely Israeli. If neither is thoroughly absorbing, each has some strong performances.

The Lovers is one long, slow trip through the love lives of a middle-aged husband and wife who are lighting their newly dull lives by having affairs with others. Before you hit delete, credit Debra Winger and Tracy Letts with good performances that save the movie from mediocrity.

Mary (Winger) finds Robert (Aiden Gillen) while Michael (Letts) meets Lucy (Melora Walters) for indulgent sex while in their home life they merely pass in the night. Just as their non-relationship begins to bore us, it becomes clear that director Jacobs is creating the familiar vacuum that frequently infects middle-aged couples after their children have grown and gone. In the absence of real drama, the audience is free to wish them both the best and to understand why they reach beyond their static lives. It’s a tour of marriage boredom rooted in respect.

 

The Lovers & The Wedding Plan

The Wedding Plan is an Israeli movie featuring Noa Koler as Michal, a bride deserted by her groom just a month before the wedding she had planned for the eighth night of Hanukkah. Koler’s Michal is a 32 year old woman fed up with both her home life and the dating game. She is lonely. When the groom vanishes along with her fantasies about married life, she decides to go ahead with the ceremony. She has one month to find a new groom and is firmly convinced her faith in God will help her do it.

Director Roma Burshtein and her lead actor Noa Koler create an eccentric character in Michal. She is cheerful on one hand, desperate on the other. Armed with charm, innocence. and her belief in God, she turns difficult as the men she meets disappoint her. She dreams of successes and failures. An appealing supporting cast supports Michal as best they can even though the odds are stacked against their friend who is trying to achieve her improbable dream.

Watching a comedy that is a sub-titled story rooted in another culture has its own reward. The inflections in their voices, their reactions to situations, the quirks of the culture make a fine background for the eccentric and appealing central performance by Noa Koler. Be prepared for the unexpected twist that comes after a few subtle clues but with a kick that makes us ask ourselves, “How did I miss that?”

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : The Lovers and The Wedding Plan
Word Count : 484
Running time : 1:34, 1:50
Rating : R, PG
Date : May 28, 2017