It’s a crying shame that Saint Maud has only just now been released to a wider audience through home entertainment here in Australia. Having been released in the UK back in 2019, and then picked up by A24 films, a company known for its ‘highbrow horror’ releases, such as The Lighthouse, Midsommar, and The Hole In The Ground. It easily sits in good company with these movies with themes of faith, madness, and salvation at its helm.
The narrative focuses on the burden that we carry through our lives when dealt with a traumatic episode. In this instance, we follow a nurse, Katie (Morfydd Clark – Crawl) who fails to save the life of a patient despite attempting CPR. So affected by this ordeal, Katie takes leave of her role in public health to invent a whole new identity in private care, and adopts the personna, Maud.
The story itself soon picks up with Maud assigned with the care of Amanda Kohl (Jennifer Ehle) a former dancer and choreographer who has succumbed to lymphoma. Believing that Amanda has been enveloped in sin, Maud then takes it upon herself to heal her through her faith and connection with God. So devoted is Maud to her beliefs that she begins to experience physical reactions that she believes is a testament to her unfounded devotion to the Lord. The beauty of the film is that it doesn’t question the faith itself but the extreme actions that manifest in an unstable mind when reduced to the base forms that life can subject us to. When we have nothing to fall upon other than our beliefs, then what can materialise out of faith can be an ill-fated journey through a twisted form of salvation. In Maud’s case, her salvation comes through not only cleansing her own soul, but by saving the soul of the atheist and sin-ridden Amanda, pushing these thoughts to its conclusion through pain, struggles, and ultimately redemption.
Charged with bringing this tale to fruition is writer, director Rose Glass, who’s debut feature is a mature and psychological venture into the heart of humankind, constantly questioning our role in the world and what drives us, or steers us towards our fate.
Both Clark and Ehle produce powerhouse performances that twist and turn through a beautiful mix of power and vulnerability. They are beyond exceptional in their perceptions of both Katie/Maud and Amanda respectively and help solidify and ground the fantastical in reality, so that by the film’s resolution, the horror that unfolds with a deep and unsettling feeling that resonates long after the closing credits.
Glass proves that she is a talent to watch in the future who is able to tackle some dark, psychological subjects with the confidence of a veteran in her field.
Saint Maud is quite possibly one of my favourite movies in recent years.
- Saul Muerte