There’s a rosary pinned beside Maud’s bed of one, an open bag and neatly arranged possessions give the façade of an organised life and maybe mind. When Maud (Morfydd Clark) prays to God, it is slow and concise and it sounds more like a chat. Like He’s on the other end of the line, like they are two friends seated on opposite ends of a table, “The pain in my stomach persists and is now hampered further by menstruation. I have taken two of Ibuprofen and milk of magnesia.” She goes on to say that now that she has been saved from her former self, she can’t wait for the ‘big plans’ He has for her.
Otherwise we wouldn’t see her leave her home and arrive at the doorstep of her new hospice care patient, Amanda (played by the beautiful Jennifer Enhle). Amanda’s body may be dying of cancer- but her spirit? To call her hedonistic is even an understatement. In the space of a few days, unlike poles attract. Amanda’s North, charm, decadence and excess are drawn toward Maud’s South, grace and religious eccentricity. For a good part of the remaining 80 minutes, the organised Maud cooks for, bathes and massages Amanda. Who seems grateful and somewhat embarrassed, missing the days when she was a dance choreographer and writer – a time in her life where she was blooming like a flower and is presently wilting as fast as one.
“I keep thinking about that last moment. What it will be like- what will I be looking at- will there be anyone else there? And then what, nothing? Tell me I’m wrong,” Amanda pleads with Maud, admitting that she is unprepared for both God and the afterlife. And so, whatever little and much our Maud believes about this God, she uses it to comfort Amanda. Describing Him as ever present and sometimes He is “inside” her- like a lover- and she shivers, she feels warmth. Maybe you won’t see the cracks to Maude’s organised façade just yet but for me that was the moment. Add later scenes of self-harm, hallucinations and mild like seizures whenever she feels His presence (as if God is also in charge of Maud’s sexual gratification).
And if He is, then Saint Maud could easily become a film about mental illness.
This is writer/director, Rose Glass’ debut feature. She introduces herself as both provocateur and mediator of religious, secular and spiritual thought. An asker of such big and small questions, a complainer- an observer- and when you put all of these together you have a terrifying masterpiece. I’m saying that Rose Glass is one for the ages.
The film is set in one of those quiet seaside towns. Hardly any sunshine filters through, hardly any bright spaces and this could be traced back to something Maud say’s in one of her voice overs. That she hardly cares for the creative types, they seem too self-indulged. And since she is our window into the film, and we’re seeing and understanding things from her newly devout Catholic eyes, we shouldn’t expect someone who dislikes creativity to even see colour, should we?
Saint Maud is a slow but chilling watch, shorter than you would expect. However, there is an image or two that will remain ingrained in your mind for the foreseeable future. Hopefully, these images won’t follow you in your dreams.
Review – ‘Saint Maud’
Reviewed online, February 2, 2021. Rating: U18+. Running time: 84 min.
PRODUCTION: An A24 release of an Escape Plan Productions, Film4, BFI Film Fund production. Producers: Andrea Cornwell, Oliver Kassman. Executive producers: Daniel Battsek, Mary Burke, Sam Lavender.
CREW: Director/screenplay: Rose Glass. Cinematography: Ben Fordesman. Editing: Mark Towns. Score: Adam Janota Bzowski.
CAST: Morfydd Clark, Jennifer Ehle, Lily Knight, Lily Frazer, Turlough Convery, Rosie Sansom, Marcus Hutton.