Review: Saint Maud is a ‘supremely confident debut film’

PUBLISHED: 12:47 27 October 2020 | UPDATED: 11:34 29 October 2020

Saint Maud. Picture: STUDIOCANAL

Saint Maud. Picture: STUDIOCANAL


Paul Steward reviews new psychological chiller Saint Maud, which can be seen at Saffron Screen on Friday, November 6 and Monday, November 9, and at Royston Picture Palace on Friday, November 13.

Saint Maud. Picture: STUDIOCANALSaint Maud. Picture: STUDIOCANAL

The debut feature from writer/director Rose Glass, this haunting psychological horror follows a young nurse who becomes dangerously obsessed with her dying patient.

Starring Morfydd Clark as Maud, a reclusive and devoutly religious nurse, who takes a post caring for Amanda, a terminally ill former ballet dancer played by Jennifer Ehle.

Carrying the burden of a traumatic event from her past, Maud forms a strong bond with the prickly Amanda.

Believing she is being guided by God, the young carer makes it her personal mission to save her patient’s soul.

Saint Maud film poster. Picture: STUDIOCANALSaint Maud film poster. Picture: STUDIOCANAL

A five year labour of love for Glass, the filmmaker waited tables and worked as a cinema usher whilst perfecting her screenplay, and the result is a supremely confident debut film.

Not afraid to mix genres, Saint Maud blends elements of horror with psychological drama, whilst at its core being a stark character study of a lonely and damaged young girl.

The film is understated and slow burning, but it drips with an ominous foreboding as it builds towards its inevitably violent conclusion.

In the lead, Clark delivers a delicately unsettling performance as Maud.

Saint Maud. Picture: STUDIOCANALSaint Maud. Picture: STUDIOCANAL

Full of sadness and unpredictable nervous energy, she watches disapprovingly from the sidelines as the ailing Amanda throws raucous parties with her lesbian lover Carol (Lily Frazer).

Wearing her influences proudly on her sleeve, Glass infuses her film with elements and homages to classics such as Misery, Rosemary’s Baby and Taxi Driver.

Set mostly in Scarborough, the seaside town’s rather faded vibe also adds an air of desperation to proceedings which would have been absent in a bustling city.

As with the best horror, the film is deliberately ambiguous.

Saint Maud. Picture: STUDIOCANALSaint Maud. Picture: STUDIOCANAL

Is Maud suffering from mental illness or is she actually receiving some form of divine guidance?

The film’s slow drip feed of information from Maud’s past only serves to add to the mystery.

A scene in which former colleague Joy (Lily Knight) arrives unannounced at her flat for a clear the air talk, provides one of the film’s tensest moments.

Despite her misguided actions, Maud is clearly someone with a kind heart and it’s impossible not to invest in her plight.

Saint Maud. Picture: STUDIOCANALSaint Maud. Picture: STUDIOCANAL

This makes the films visceral final act all the more shocking.

Tense, unsettling and ultimately disturbing, it’s dreamlike atmosphere and steady contemplative pace, won’t be to everybody’s taste, but fans of atmospheric horror will find it utterly absorbing.

Saint Maud is an outstandingly bold debut film from a visionary new filmmaker.

Soaked in dread and with a tight 84 minute runtime, it provides a perfect creepy treat for cinema-goers this Halloween season.

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