saint maud | rose glass | morfydd clark | jennifer ehle | lily knight | a24 | religion | drama | mystery | united kingdom | lily frazer | turlough convery | rosie sansom | marcus hutton | carl prekopp | noa bodner | takatsuna mukai | jel djelal | medical
Film: Saint Maud
Director: Rose Glass
Writer: Rose Glass
Starring: Morfydd Clark, Jennifer Ehle and Lily Knight
This was one of my more anticipated films for 2020. Due to the COVID pandemic, this of course got pushed back into 2021 where Jaime and I watched it at home through streaming as part of our Valentine’s Day plans. If you were curious and do not know, it is an Epix Exclusive. It is a bummer we couldn’t see it in the theater, but still glad to finally view this. We’ve also now giving it a second viewing as I do rewatches for my year end. This also appeared as a movie for The Podcast Under the Stairs’ Summer series, as it made its debut in the United Kingdom in 2019. The synopsis here is a pious nurse who becomes dangerously obsessed with saving the soul of her dying patient.
We start here with an interesting way of introducing our main character. She goes by the name of Maud (Morfydd Clark), but later we get revealed that it is really Katie. Something happened while she was working a hospital and it resulted in a patient dying. To get back on her feet, Maud is taking on a job as a hospice nurse for a former dancer and choreographer named Amanda (Jennifer Ehle). I did want to include here that hospice might be a bit different in the United Kingdom where this takes place from what Jaime was telling me. Amanda has cancer, but the care she is getting does seem like it could prologue her life, if she wants that. There seems to be more yoga/stretching exercises to help Amanda.
The two have a bit of a rocky start where Amanda mocks Maud. The more they spend time together, the more Amanda starts to buy into doing some things that her more religious nurse is doing. It does come off as a mocking her at first, but she does seem to get some reprieve from it as well. Amanda is also visited by a young woman named Carol (Lily Frazer). I thought she was a prostitute when I first saw her, but it does seem like she is more of a sugar baby. Maud tells her to stop coming around as she is interfering with the saving of Amanda’s soul at this critical time in her life. Carol does seem at first to take the hint.
Maud has her fall from grace due to this. Amanda mocks her at a party in front of her guests and this causes Maud to strike her. Maud loses her job and seems to lose her purpose as well. It causes her to spiral. Through Joy (Lily Knight), a former co-worker, we learn that Maud used to be a bit wild and then had a psychotic break from that incident. She turned to religion which did seem to help. We see that Maud could possible be visited by religious presence, which Amanda seemed to feel as well. Or is she having another breakdown?
Now that is where I want to leave my recap of this movie. What really intrigued me coming into this was that I saw the trailer. I tried to avoid them, but this one I couldn’t help when I went to see movies with Jaime. I also saw that it had a low running time of 84 minutes. What I’m getting at here is that there isn’t a lot to the story, but it is really about this young woman and her mental state.
That is where I think I want to start here. Despite this movie’s short running time, I think it does some good things with giving us back-story without force feeding it and filling in gaps with things that we’re seeing. Like we know there was a mental break and something horrific took place involving Maud. What is interesting is that is the first thing we learn about her. Clark’s performance as this character sells it as well. She comes off as mousey and not confident in herself. I mean there is good reason. She has her religion, which gives her strength. It doesn’t help that she is mocked for it though. There is mentally instability here for sure. Building on that, from Joy and a guy she encounters at a bar, we learn that Maud used to be a partier. What I’m taking from this is that she doesn’t fit in and she is trying too hard. Drinking and sleeping with random men is what she did then. She falls back into that when she has her fall from grace, but it doesn’t fulfill her.
I want to shift this to the idea that Maud could be visited by angel, God or even a demon. What I think works here is how it is presented. Maud has these moments where her skin will pull and distort how she looks. It does feel like an unseen entity is causing this. Jaime brought up the good point that it could also be her having a seizure. We are mostly seeing things from Maud’s point of view so it isn’t the most reliable either. Regardless, what I like is that it only happens when there is no one else to see it. Amanda does at one point, but we get the idea she is mocking her. Maud does also hear a voice that seems to be speaking in Latin, but turns out from what I read to be Welsh. It is just distorted in a way to make it creepy. It is pretty unnerving. To add to her religious experiences, Maud is doing things that harm her physically. This makes me think of St. Thomas More who felt that to be in constant pain was to be closer to God. We get some pretty cringe-worthy things here that were effective for me. I do like that the end of the movie gives you what Maud is seeing as well as a brief look at the truth and it completed it for me.
Since I’ve already talked about Clark’s performance, I want to shift to the rest of the cast. This is really a character study of Maud with those around her pushing her to where she ends up. Ehle is solid as this woman who seemed to have everything, but has given up on life due to her health failing. Maud wants to help her. The problem is that she doesn’t want to help herself. She wants to enjoy the pleasures of life and give up. Knight gives us a glimpse into the old Maud, or I guess Katie. There’s an interesting scene where Maud reaches out to her and Katie is unable to join her. This sinks our main character into more of a depression and her spiraling. Frazer is also good in causing stress in Maud’s life that leads to her downfall. The rest of the cast also helps round this out in my opinion.
Where I want to go next would be the effects. We actually get a fair amount, but the movie doesn’t necessarily rely on them. There are some practical ones like what Maud puts into her shoe. This is aided by the sound design actually. The movie does use CGI, but it is to accentuate things. If I study it, I could tell it was done with computers, but how they used it was effective for me, especially since we aren’t fully sure what is real there and what isn’t. Overall I’d say this was well done in building more of the horror elements. The cinematography, especially for the ending sequence, was well done on top of that.
In conclusion here, I tried my hardest to not come in with high expectations, but regardless there were some there. I think this movie gave me exactly what I wanted it to. We are toeing the line here of whether something supernatural is happening or if this is someone who has a mental break. I think the performance from Maud really sells either side of the explanation. The rest of the acting helps to push her to where she ends up. I think the effects were effective. The sound design and soundtrack worked for me as well. This is a good movie in my opinion. I’m glad that I got the chance to revisit it, as it solidifies where I was previously. This is one of the best horror films I’ve seen for 2021.
My Rating: 9 out of 10