2020 Film Review: Saint Maud
Plot Synopsis: Maud is a reclusive young nurse whose impressionable demeanour causes her to pursue a pious path of Christian devotion after an obscure trauma. Now charged with the hospice care of Amanda, a retired dancer ravaged by cancer, Maud's fervent faith quickly inspires an obsessive conviction that she must save her ward's soul from eternal damnation, whatever the cost.
As cinema’s scramble to find films to release, amongst a host of random kids movies emerges independent British horror Saint Maud. Gaining traction through the festival circuit, the directorial debut from Rose Glass was snapped up by StudioCanal to release in the U.K., initially slated for May. Now finally released, Saint Maud has proved yet again how there’s always something to look forward on the independent circuit as this psychological/possession film truly delivers.
Following a recently converted Christian and new carer named ‘Maud’, this horror is one that defers away from the mainstream styles of horror filmmaking. This story is a lot more intimate and focuses entirely on the main characters psyche, with a voiceover narrating through most of the film's actions. It’s a lot more nerve-racking than a film that will draw out screams - bar an excellent jumpscare late into the film - with creepiness through our main character’s personality maintaining a level of uneasiness.
As previously mentioned, a lot of the film relies on the main character, with a brilliant lead performance from Morfydd Clark. Clark is very dour early on as a do-gooder preachy Christian but as the story progresses and she sees her faith tested, she becomes a lot more sinister. Clark does excellent in these transitions that match the narrations perfectly and showcase her state of mind in each particular moment. The film could become confusing due to the conflict in Maud’s mind but with Clark’s performance, it works well albeit its twists and turns.
Saint Maud is largely a film about morality as the film bounces back and forth on Maud’s faith and how strong her beliefs actually are. A constant feature within this film is based around why people do certain good things, is it to actually help or to boost one's self in hope of reward. It is a very interesting aspect especially surrounding its use of religion that fits perfectly and is the catalyst to Maud’s mindset, especially regarding Maud's state of mind. Relating to whether she reacts positively or negatively, these scenes bring thought-provoking questions whilst also providing some truly wince-inducing moments.
With an ending that delivers big, Saint Maud maintains a high level of uncertainty regarding where its story will go that keeps the viewer engaged. A couple of details are dropped throughout the film that adds to the increasing tension before finally, it rounds out perfectly. Director Rose Glass has made a great impact with her first feature-length outing as both director and writer. An excellent piece that we have been deprived of for so long, an excellent piece of horror cinema.