Runtime 105 minutes
OK for children

The true story of folk artist Maud Lewis (Sally Hawkins) and her relationship/romance with difficult-to-like Everett Lewis (Ethan Hawke), the first 10 to 15 minutes are so dark and depressing I was ready to bolt. That I didn’t exit, however, was a boon because this turned into one of the best pictures of the year.

The film starts with Maud, severely crippled from arthritis and hunched over, trying to get away from an overprotective family. Into a shop where she happens to be walks Everett Lewis, a 40-year-old bachelor who is also an abandoned soul, and who lives in a 10’ x 12’ house without running water or electricity. He survives by collecting scraps and selling fish. He puts up a sign in the store looking for a cleaning woman. Maud answers it and their unusual relationship starts.

The rest of the movie consists of a bravura performance by Hawkins and an almost equal performance from Hawke. As they live together in really stark, poverty-stricken circumstances she slowly, amazingly, becomes recognized as a world class artist.

Directed by Aisling Walsh from a script by Sherry White this is a heart-rending film to sit through but well worth it. Both give eye-popping performances but Hawkins, particularly, should be up for an Oscar. Sorry for the redundancy, but Hawkins really blew me away.

My Cousin Rachel

Runtime 91 minutes
OK for children

Sam Claflin and Rachel Weisz star in “My Cousin Rachel” directed by Roger Michell.

Reprising a movie starring superstars Richard Burton and Olivia de Havilland is no easy task, even though the movie was made more than 60 years ago. But this outing, directed and adapted from Daphne Du Maurier’s best-selling novel for the screen by Roger Mitchell, can stand on its own with Sam Claflin and Rachel Weisz replacing Burton and de Haviland, respectively.

The story of a young heir, Philip Ashley (Claflin) and his relationship with his deceased guardian’s widow, Rachel (Weisz) is captivatingly told. Philip has been brought up without his mother and in a very sheltered environment and although highly suspicious of Rachel, she is not even close to what he perceived her to be. To call Rachel enigmatic and inscrutable doesn’t do her justice. Both main players give fine performances, the best of which is by Claflin who captures Phillips immaturity and naïveté perfectly.

Philip has returned to the great estate to claim his inheritance from his guardian. Was Rachel complicit in the guardian’s death? Is she still out to get the inheritance?

Set in the 1830s, this well-paced film is enhanced by fine cinematography by Mike Ely and exceptional production design and costume design by Alice Normington and Dinah Collin, respectively.

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