A reminder of how thin the line is between genius and madness, Seraphine is a quietly beautiful portrait of a woman and her art.

A reminder of how thin the line is between genius and madness, Seraphine is a quietly beautiful portrait of a woman and her art.

We first meet Seraphine (Yolande Moreau) as she's working as a maid near the turn of the century in France.

And in the opening scenes, we watch this dowdy, middle-aged woman go through her day, secretly stashing everything she uses to make her paints - green foliage, bright yellow blossoms, melted wax from church votives, blood from the butcher - into her apron, then late at night gleefully pounding them into usable form with a mortar and pestle.

Seraphine doesn't see the world the way others do. She stops often to watch the sun flicker through the leaves and marvels at the way water distorts her hands and feet. But she also hears voices from angels - instructing her to create the vivid and intense floral paintings that are soon discovered by an art collector, then convincing her to do stranger things.

Based on the true story of the self-taught artist Seraphine de Senlis, French director Martin Provost's film is simple and spare. He's lucky to have found Moreau, who expertly combines the world-weariness of a servant with the naivete of a child who constantly craves approval.

You'll root for Seraphine until the end, even as the story moves towards its inevitable finale.