Saint Maud (2019) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

Saint Maud (2019) Review

Horrorific content by Jessica Gomez on March 26th, 2021 | Movie Review | Possession, Religion, Psychological, Medical

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A home care nurse becomes obsessed with helping her dying patient find salvation.

Saint Maud was directed by Rose Glass and stars Jennifer Ehle (from RoboCop), Morfydd Clark (from Crawl), Lily Frazer and Turlough Convery.

Your savior is coming.

Saint Maud Review

Rose Glass’s feature directorial debut has everybody talking. The moody, religiously thematic tale of a self-loathing young woman is intriguing...but is it truly horror?

Home carer Maud (Morfyyd Clark), a shy, socially awkward, and devout Christian, is sent to care for Amanda (Jennifer Ehle), a dying woman who is everything Maud is not. She’s charismatic, even through severe illness; she’s outspoken and tough as nails; she’s led an interesting life, and she has a large group of eclectic friends. Maud is an outcast who lives alone in a tiny, bare apartment, while Amanda lives in the same town, but in a grand house with colorful decor. Though the two women couldn’t be more different, they are both lonely, and they come to find companionship with each other. And though Maud would never admit it, it seems that there is a spark there that is more romantic than plutonic.

Amanda confides in Maud that she is scared to die, and Maud sees the confession as an opportunity to show Amanda the way of God. Maud even says that at times, God speaks to her (much like Black Phillip in The Witch), and that she can feel him pulsing through her body - an event we get to see a few times that looks like a cross between an orgasm and an exorcism, which is creepy the first time, but then we know what to expect. Amanda humors Maud and calls Maud her “savior”, and Maud’s crush turns more to the obsessive. She is sure that God has called on her to convert Amanda, and she will do anything to keep Amanda on the path to salvation.

Over time, we find that Maud had a traumatic experience when she was a nurse at a hospital, and after this trauma she dealt with it by devoting herself to God. But the devotion only pushes her further into madness; the idea of doing right by him consumes her, and she lives by what she sees as perfection, in the exact way she thinks he would want her to. When she makes a “mistake”, she punishes herself both mentally and physically. What she’s truly dealing with is PTSD, isolation and self-hatred, and the idea of going against every natural impulse she has incidentally causes herself to live in a hell of her own creation.

The dynamic between Amanda and Maud was captivating for the first half of the movie, in part because of stellar acting from Clark and Ehle, but once that was no longer the focus, the rest sort of dragged on, because it wasn’t anything I haven’t already seen in some way. Most of the movie is quite dark and cinematically intriguing, playing with light and darkness. The sound, when we are in the perspective of Maud, is off-kilter and at times maddening, but that’s the point. It drew some inspiration from Hereditary as far as the way it was shot. But while Hereditary contained multitudes of layers, Saint Maud has a more singular focus. The computerized effects at the end were purposely cheesy to show us that what we were seeing was not real...but when you go out of your way to explain something that should already be obvious to the viewer, it doesn’t work.

I appreciated the bold move for a feature film to tackle problems with religion and how it can prey upon the weak in times of crisis - it’s the antithesis of older religion-heavy horror movies like The Exorcist or The Omen. But I’ve got a problem with this being billed as a straight horror movie; it’s more psychological thriller with horror elements. It’s certainly tense, but the climax is the only true horror aspect. There were scenes that could have been pushed a bit further, but Glass stopped short, and it was obvious. It felt like it was made to be more mainstream-friendly, which is why all major mainstream outlets are giving it great reviews, but with this subject matter, it would have been a better choice to push the envelope a bit more.

Worth Watching?

If you’re into religious horror, you’ll surely enjoy it. I personally found it a little too focused on the obvious anti-religion aspect with not much more substance behind that, but if you’re into A24 movies, this could not be more up your alley.

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