Dir. Rose Glass (2019)
A young nurse becomes more concerned with her patient’s soul than her medical care.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
There’s already a spoiler alert up top, but as this is a newer popular film, I wanted to double-dip a little here and say that if you haven’t seen Saint Maud, you may want to come back to this after watching.
So few young director’s know what a film is supposed to look like. For every blockbuster there are a thousand films with shaky cameras, terrible dialogue, and actors who couldn’t act their way out of a paper bag. Every once in a while, though, you get a film like Saint Maud, where everything comes together in near perfection. It’s a beautifully shot movie with a psychosexual vibe that’s rarely seen done so well from someone so new to the game. For whatever else the film is worth, the vision to be able to produce a film like this with no practice is astounding, and director Rose Glass should be getting as many accolade as she already is.
Maud is a hospice nurse and a newly devout Catholic of the penitent kind, who uses her pain to show her repentance. The woman she is taking care of, Amanda, is dying of spinal cancer, and as Maud performs her religious rites to bless Amanda, it is difficult at times to tell if she is intrigued or mocking Maud’s belief. When Maud experiences God’s touch, she basically has a full-body orgasm, which… is not my experience. But, I bet it would get a lot of people into church. When Maud sees her ward making out with her female visitor, and Amanda begins to look at her lasciviously, she begins to question whether her religious zealotry is having its intended effect. She scares away her patient’s lover, and it becomes clear that she desires to be the only presence in Amanda’s life. When Amanda calls Maud out in front of the party she is throwing for her friends, Maud is humiliated despite Amanda’s attempts to excuse the things that she said. She slaps her employer across the face, causing a nosebleed and causing all sorts of problems with her nursing agency.
But she’s got God, so that’s nice.
Things go downhill and Maud starts to blame God for her own failures, believing that her actions were in the right because she did them devoutly. She begins to pick at her wounds and becomes much less, uh… devout. Maud is movie about obsession and repression and the dual nature of both. Obsession often comes from unattainability, and Maud’s obsession with God and Amanda causes her to seek that rapturous feeling from other places, especially once she is distanced from both. The movie’s camerawork is disorienting and bizarre, leading us into this same feeling of desperation that Maud herself feels. It’s a character study in religious self-persecution and the Catholic infatuation with guilt and religion. As time goes on, however, it becomes clear that God may not be involved in what is happening to Maud.
I said earlier that Saint Maud was near perfection. It misses in that it’s a little slower-paced than I’d like. It’s a slow-burn to be sure, but there’s not always enough to keep the film moving forward in a way that you’re waiting for the burn to pay off. That being said, the payoff… holy fuck. One of the more shocking scenes in recent memory, and a hell of an ending to the film. As spoiler-ific as this review has been, I shan’t spoil the actual ending. I’m not an evil asshole. The payoff is worth it in the end, and Saint Maud deserves every bit of credit that it’s gotten. The last five minutes are such perfectly performed storytelling that, even without the first hour and a half, the movie would be worth it with these scenes alone.
My actual reaction to the ending.
Who this movie is for: Modern horror fans, Religious and psychological horror fans, People with inner demons begging to come out
Bottom line: Saint Maud is stylish, beautiful, and melancholic, and it’s a great first feature from Rose Glass. It’s near perfection, and it’s worth a watch for any horror fan. It’s an excellent film altogether as well, even forgetting the horror elements. Morfyyd Clark and Jennifer Ehle are excellent as the leads, and this is one that is a must-see. Everyone is talking about it for a reason.