Your savior is here!
Saint Maud tells the story of Maud, a newly devout hospice nurse, as she is assigned to be the caretaker of Amanda, a former ballet dancer suffering from a chronic illness. As she cares for the disabled and dying Amanda, Maud becomes determined to save Amanda’s soul, especially considering her disgust with Amanda’s alcoholic and nihilistic lifestyle. Maud states that she can feel God’s presence in Amanda’s house, but as her obsession grows and her faith is challenged, it becomes apparent that this presence might be that of something sinful.
The story of Saint Maud seems straightforward for the first half, but there is plenty of room for interpretation, almost like studying a painting. Perhaps what Saint Maud tries to comment on is the struggle of maintaining faith and sanity in a somewhat nihilistic world. Similar to how 2019’s Joker demonstrated, staying sane in an insane world is harder than it seems, and can sometimes have dire consequences. In this case, can faith be gained, and then lost just as easily? Not an easy question to answer, and the film wisely leaves many things ambiguous.
Writer/director Rose Glass successfully keeps the audience at a distance in regards to how much information she reveals about Maud. For example, Maud’s early interaction with a former coworker reveals that she had an unfortunate experience with one of her patients in the past, but not many details are discussed and only brief visual flashbacks included. The slow reveal of information may be a patience tester for some, but this process boosts the appeal of Saint Maud, and Morfydd Clark’s hypnotic and subtle performance as Maud makes the experience worthwhile.
There is an eeriness surrounding the events of Saint Maud, and the atmosphere is one of the film’s greatest strengths. From scene one, something feels off, even though nothing of importance is happening. Little by little, though, as more characters are introduced and secrets are revealed, the film becomes a psychological rabbit hole that deepens, and when the film is over, viewers are left mystified. As Glass’s cinematic debut, this film is a rather impressive accomplishment.
The look of Saint Maud, lensed beautifully by Ben Fordesman, also adds to the chilling atmosphere, and features a meticulous use of lighting and camera angles. The film also contains some elements of body horror, but they compliment the tone of the film, rather than being added in purely for shock value. It is clear that Glass’s vision is reminiscent of religious-themed horror films such as The Exorcist and Carrie, and she adopts the proper elements from these films, while adding her own unique spin to them.
While there have been a number of decent horror films in recent years, a majority of them suffer from a lackluster finale. Thankfully, that cannot be said of Saint Maud, because the final act is astonishing, not just visually, but also thematically, given the events that occurred before.
In a time when audiences are craving new movies, Saint Maud is one that they should seek out when it is released. It is inspired, well acted, has incredible atmosphere, and manages to confidently tell its story while respecting the intelligence of its audience. There is a divine presence in this film, and it happens to be quality.
A24’s Saint Maud will be hitting theaters in a limited release on Jan. 29.