The debut feature film, “Saint Maud,” from director Rose Glass, follows a lonely and, quite frankly, strange hospice nurse, Maud (Morfydd Clark) with a bloody, mysterious and traumatic past that has reinvigorated her fervent Catholic faith. Maud has been most recently assigned to Amanda (Jennifer Ehle), a cancer-afflicted dancer and choreographer, who is a firm atheist. The ascetic Maud sees her more hedonistic and cynical patient as a sign from God that she must save Amanda’s soul before time runs out. Going any further beyond this brief summary would fail to do the movie justice. Instead, watch “Saint Maud” for yourself. It’s worth the effort to see this devastatingly beautiful, albeit tragic, film.
Firstly, Morfydd Clark is excellent in the titular role. The same goes for Jennifer Ehle in her role as Amanda. This is a story about Maud and her entanglement with Amanda, making both of them key players in the success of the film. Rose Glass commented in an interview with Vulture that her goal was to make both of them sympathetic characters, almost mirrors of one another in the Madonna-whore complex. Once Amanda and Maud begin to bond, their tangled connection as patient and nurse runs the spectrum of romantic to envious and even messianic with Amanda’s reference to Maud as her “savior.”
It would be difficult to see “Saint Maud” as anything other than a brilliant debut from writer-director Rose Glass. Carefully written, tense scenes that lure the viewer into the world of Maud and the desolate, lonely seaside town that she shares with Amanda contrast brilliantly with the bright lights and carnival sounds of the boardwalk. Glass has managed to make the viewer feel lonely in a primordial, isolated way that speaks to anyone who has experienced that feeling before.
During the same interview, Glass commented that her first filmmaking experiences happened during secondary school where she and her friends made short, silly parodies. This style of bright, wry comedy eventually merged with arthouse-style cinema when she entered film school. That style comes across in the film, with brilliant, beautiful bursts of comedy that make the viewer laugh at the silliness of life before the beginning of tragedy commences.
Produced and distributed in Europe by StudioCanal UK, many American viewers probably associate the arthouse-horror blend that “Saint Maud” exemplifies with A24, especially given its well-known release of “Midsommar” in 2019, which is also worth a watch for those who enjoyed “Saint Maud.” “Saint Maud” was first released in 2019 at the Toronto International Film Festival, but difficulties due to COVID-19 led to its delayed release in Oct., 2020, per Screendaily.
“Saint Maud” is a haunting, beautifully tragic and ultimately powerful story of madness and faith. It is a reminder that every person needs help, even if they themselves are caretakers. The film has something for everyone: a haunting soundtrack, fascinating use of symbols, excellent actors and the sensation that something is going terribly, terribly wrong when it is far too late. So, if you are interested in a zippy film of 84 minutes that will follow you for weeks and if you happen to have an Amazon Prime subscription (or even better, a friend who does), watch “Saint Maud.” You won’t regret it.