There, but for the grace of God, goes Maud, a reclusive young nurse whose impressionable demeanor 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. Making her feature film debut, writer-director Rose Glass cannily lures the audience into this disturbed psyche, steadily setting up her veritable diary of a country nurse for an unnerving and ultimately shocking trajectory. Morfydd Clark (also at the Festival in The Personal History of David Copperfield) portrays the sanctimonious Maud with an intense stoicism that belies a disquieting vulnerability, as Maud desperately vies for absolution and solidarity from her embittered patient (an enthralling Jennifer Ehle, also at the Festival in Beneath the Blue Suburban Skies). Glass tenderly ...Written by
Toronto International Film Festival
And here I, at last and once again, meet the kind of horror movie that butters my bread just the right way. It is astonishing the variety of new horror filmmakers and their debuts, and their continuum, that we have been gifted during the last years, from Severin Fiala & Veronika Franz ("Goodnight Mommy", "The Lodge"), Robert Eggers ("The VVitch", ""The Lighthouse"), Ari Aster ("Hereditary", "Midsommar"), etc., and now Rose Glass, with an equal force in probing for horror in the psyche of a human mind.
"Saint Maud" follows Maud, a devout, young nurse who works as a private carer, and becomes dangerously obsessed with saving the soul of her dying patient, Amanda Kohl. While the plot is admittedly short and, as many complain, plenty predictable, it is not that much the structure of the story or the amount of plot turns where the substance is at. "Saint Maud" is an exploration of a traumatized mind grasping for a safe ground, about absolute fanaticism and the dissimilarity between the beliefs of a religious mind and all others, about the relationship between faith and oneself, a young woman fighting and succumbing to deteriorating mental state, and a tale of loneliness. And a story of possession.
It is truly an impressive and daring film debut, with Rose Glass orchestrating Maud's rise and downfall with much ambiguity, leaving all possibilities open. Is such a tunneled fanaticism a mental illness? Is God really speaking to her? Maud believes only the father in heaven can help her and the whole wicked humanity & she' sure God acts through her, touches her soul. The story is told almost entirely from Maud's perspective, so we see, through her, all the manifestations and sensations that find her in her lonely, routine life. Delusions, and not willingly perceived. Reality that has started to bend to adjust to these delusions. With only 80-minute runtime, Rose Glass is not in a hurry to confirm that Maud is a deeply troubled, mentally ill mind in need of help other than Gods. Much of the ground of "Saint Maud" is built from the relationship between Maud and Amanda. Maud admires Amanda for her strength, but believes her mind is shrouded in darkness and need of a holy touch, and the mission becomes clear when Amanda calls Maud her 'little savior'. Maud disapproves of certain Amanda's actions, like her sexual relationship with another woman, and eventually it boils up to conflict and Maud's crisis of faith. "Revelation. Just in time." "Saint Maud" is a powerful and psychologically exposed downwards spiral into uncontrollable depths of a person's mind. We are fragile.
No less impressive are the aesthetical values and acting. Morfydd Clark stars in her first leading role, and does so as devoutly as her character is to God, it is a physical, demanding and impressive performance that should be recognized. Jennifer Ehle adds strength, compassion, humanism, a different pole from Maud's, as Amanda, an ex-choreographer suffering a stage four spinal lymphoma. "Saint Maud" is certainly a female-led movie, all the men characters are, frankly, idiots. It's a movie beuatiffuly shot and edited, every frame seems thought-through, and there are no hiccups in the visual language. Much respect goes out to Adam Janota Bzowski, responsible for the eerie, pulsating original score & its only his first full feature, great future is ahead.
I see people arguing whether "Saint Maud" is a horror film, and I'd say for sure it is, but the horror can be more felt than seen. It is what the characters go through. And the finale was very effective in all regards of horror, in my opinion.
It's admirable how much Rose Glass has put in 80 minutes, and I stand by that it is anything but an empty film, emotion can substitute for a lot. Movies like this one, that make your brain work for days after, are the reason I'm into cinema. My rating: 8/10.
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