Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke in Maudie.

There isn’t a single wrong note in Maudie, an alternately heartbreaking and uplifting biography film about the life of Canadian painter Maud Lewis (Sally Hawkins).

After answering an ad seeking a housekeeper in Nova Scotia, Maud, stricken with arthritis since she was a child, winds up in the house of miserable-bastard Everett Lewis (Ethan Hawke, delivering yet another monumental performance). The two wind up married, but it’s no fairytale: Everett has some major, major issues that Maud must contend with, and when Maud finds fame with her sweet paintings, Everett becomes an even bigger jerk.

Director Aisling Walsh, working from a script by Sherry White, makes a lot of interesting choices in depicting the couple—and Hawkins and Hawke make them all work.

Hawkins is a true Oscar contender for her work here, and while the role of Maud requires a difficult and strenuous physical performance, the light in her voice gives her Maud an illuminating quality. The humor always shines through, and it’s breathtaking how good she is.

Hawke never gives up on his character’s unrelenting stubbornness; he’s afflicted with a permanent scowl. He could find himself in the Oscar race as well.

If there’s an underlying message to this movie, it’s this: If you love somebody, you’d better damn well act like you mean it before it’s too late.

Maudie is now playing at the Palm Desert 10 Cinemas (72840 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-340-0033). It opens Friday, July 7, at the Camelot Theatres (2300 E. Baristo Road, Palm Springs; 760-325-6565).