Saint Maud will make audiences wonder how far is too far when it comes to faith, devotion, and religious beliefs. This is a terrific directional debut that welcomes the audience to interpret the events that unfold. Of Course, A24’s attachment shouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with the type of films they’ve released over the years. Saint Maud is a thought-provoking look at how religion can be unhealthy at times.
A story about a woman who has recently found God should be uplifting, but not for Maud, who has struggled to cope with a recent medical mishap. When these psychological horror films dig into the human psyche, it usually results in a very uncomfortable but engaging experience. Saint Maud tackles how devotion can lead to self-destruction, and it doesn’t hold back from being unsettling at times. Directed and written by Rose Glass, Saint Maud stars Lily Knight, Lily Frazer, Jennifer Ehle, Rosie Sansom, and Morfydd Clark. The film follows Maud (Clark), a newly devout Roman Catholic, who is working as a hospice nurse. When given the responsibility of caring for Amanda (Ehle), Maud convinces herself she must save her soul from eternal damnation.
Glass does a great job presenting this difference in lifestyles between Amanda and Maud. Before falling ill, Amanda was an artist, and she is now being forced to confront death. However, Amanda engages in several sinful activities, as noticed by Maud. Maud has to live with the unfortunate reality that she couldn’t save a patient’s life in the past, which is what sparks her religious conversion. To make up for that, she is trying to save Amanda from all of her sinful activities. The blatant difference between the two is evident throughout, and the tension only increases with each new activity Maud discovers in Amanda’s life. Despite death knocking on her door, Amanda is in good spirits and seems full of life more than her disturbed hospice nurse. It’s an ironic scenario because Maud is helping others, but she isn’t helping herself despite what she believes.
Maud is often reserved until her religion is brought into question by Amanda or anyone else who doubts. Amanda doesn’t believe in God, so this only aggravates Maud’s mental instability that becomes more apparent with each passing scene. She is drenched in guilt, regret, and blinded by obsession. She can’t enjoy life due to this, and what makes Saint Maud so disturbing is that she can’t see her self-destruction in the making. Glass’ script offers enough knowledge about Maud for audiences to become concerned for her sanity and it’s very clear that she is slipping into madness. The script doesn’t hold the audience’s hand, but still delivers details to assist with almost any interpretation.
Clark is impressive as this newly saved woman, who doesn’t quite seem to be as committed as she wants to be. Maud is haunted by her previous failures, and with Clark giving it her all in this role, it makes you question if she truly believes in God, or if she is using religion in order to salvage herself. Clark’s performance amplifies the unhinged nature that seems to lie beneath Maud. She brilliantly depicts a social outcast who used to be very outgoing but can’t escape her troubling thoughts. Glass paces the film fairly well, and it is a slow burn for the most part. However, with a compelling lead to carry us for a little over an hour, the slow burn never grows tired. There are some frightening shots shown throughout, and the score by Adam Bzowski is beautifully horrific to hear at certain points. The cinematography by Ben Fordesman aids the moody atmosphere and gives Saint Maud this feeling of dread from start to finish.
Saint Maud deserves every bit of praise because Glass has come out very strong here. Hopefully, her future films are on the same level as this stellar directional debut. This is a film that will stick with some after its chilling final shot. Saint Maud offers a fascinating glance at how damaging religion can become, and it leaves a feeling of unease because of how uncomfortable the film can be to watch at times. If Maud turned to God over poor medical practices, then perhaps God can assist those who decide to endure the brilliance of Saint Maud.