#REVIEW: “SAINT MAUD”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
Maud (Morfydd Clark) is a Nurse turned Personal Support Worker. Haunted by her past, she has become such a devout Catholic that she believes she can hear and feel God speaking to her. His message becomes clear when Maud is assigned to care for Amanda (Jennifer Ehle), a former dancer now dying of Lymphoma: she must cleanse and save her patient’s soul at any cost.
I watched Saint Maud almost a month ago and my skin is still crawling. The Film starts in a ghastly way and then proceeds to envelope you in foreboding dread. If watching it does not have you shaking down to your bones, you may want to check that you still have a pulse. That sounds slightly hyperbolic, but it is not every day that you watch a film that is so distinctive and genuinely terrifying. Saint Maud runs a hair over 80 minutes, and first time Writer/Director Rose Glass does her very best to use every second to her advantage in order to craft this twisted tale. What emerges is the least holy experience since Hereditary – one that is just as unsettling as that brilliant masterwork.
What really sets Saint Maud apart from other films of its ilk is the perspective it takes. Instead of being on the outside looking in, Glass ingeniously chooses Maud to narrate nearly the entire Film and shoots everything from her point of view (save for one abrupt and truly horrifying shot). We sometimes hear what other people are thinking or doing, but we grow to frequently not trust these things – mostly because we know that Maud is a completely unreliable Narrator. It makes for a very interesting dynamic within the Film and makes moments in the Third Act substantially scarier and more disturbing. While Saint Maud’s slow burn nature is a bit too drawn out in some instances, the way Glass gradually leans into Maud’s religious paranoia is a thing of beauty, even if what we are witnessing is anything but. One squeamish moment spoiled in the trailers is the kind of masochistic nightmare fuel that horror fans will adore and everyone else will be mortified by.
At the centre of Glass’ delicate balancing act is Clark, who delivers a blisteringly-great performance for the ages. She is methodical and precise in her movements and inflections. She digs down deep right from the start to make Maud as multi-faceted as possible. We are meant to empathize with her trauma and regret, and feel every ounce of confusion and desperation weighing her down. Maud sees herself as a hero, and Clark sells that mindset with her quiet intensity and wild swath of emotions. She gets even better when some particularly more sinister elements begin to be introduced, demanding your attention at every turn. She does not leave much room for the supporting cast to make an impression, but small turns from Lily Knight and Lily Frazer help ground the Film and Ehle is quite good as the patient trying to understand Maud’s motivations for assisting her.
Saint Maud is a Psychological Thriller that will get under your skin and linger there long after the credits end. It is a terrific debut feature from Glass, and packs one hell of a lead performance from Clark. I had been waiting a long time since TIFF ’19 to see this one and it did not let me down. So don’t wait, and make sure you book time with Maud as soon as you can.
Elevation Pictures release SAINT MAUD on Digital and On-Demand Friday, February 12, 2021.