There are two beautifully paired performances at the center of “Maudie,” Aisling Walsh’s alternately tough and delicate film about the life of the Nova Scotia-based folk artist Maud Lewis. As played by the wonderful Sally Hawkins (“Happy-Go-Lucky,” “Blue Jasmine”), Maudie is a frail, slow-moving figure whose lifelong struggle with rheumatoid arthritis makes it seem impossible that she’ll ever live an independent life, much less pursue her calling as a painter. But live and paint she does, after taking a job as a housekeeper for a local hermit, Everett Lewis (a superb Ethan Hawke), whom she eventually marries.
Unfolding in the tiny shack that they call home (whose walls will soon be covered with Maudie’s artwork), theirs is the least probable romance imaginable, marred by physical abuse and the severe difficulties that both Maudie and Everett have expressing themselves. But as sensitively directed by Walsh from a screenplay by Sherry White, “Maudie” becomes a moving testament to unexpected love, self-realization and the importance of finding transporting beauty within the cramped confines of the everyday.