TW: Sexual Assault, Mental Illness, Body Horror // Minor Spoilers Below
Rose Glass’ directorial debut, Saint Maud, explores the term “god complex” to an extreme. The film follows Maud, a young nurse who has recently been “saved” by God (through Catholicism) and believes she has a bigger purpose for it. She tries to implement her “good-willed” faith on her new patient — a harsh and pessimistic former dance teacher, Amanda, who is dying of cancer. The film, while not always perfect with its semi-predictable ending and lack of true scares, is a strong freshman film and solidifies Glass as a rising star to watch. Her command of screen, story, and character is a marvel to behold — making me excited for what comes next. A fellow A24 film it heavily parallels is The Witch — (one of) the company's best horror films and even gives it a hidden similarity between the two worlds. Possibly even hinting at an A24 cinematic universe — who wouldn't love a series of interconnected movies about animal deities conspiring with young women? Though not shining as bright as the latter, which is in part due to misrepresented expectations of the film, Saint Maud is the perfect follow-up to watch if you enjoy unhinged women unraveling in supernatural ways.
The most fascinating part of the film is the fantastic performances. Both Morfydd Clark, who plays Maud, and Jennifer Ehle, who plays Amanda, make these roles spectacularly horrifying, giving the film its psychologically disturbing edge. Clark is great at giving Maud this well-rounded complexity that still remains cohesive to the character. There is a steady progression into Carrie White-like hysteria that is absolutely mesmerizing. She is able to teeter the line between devout and innocent so well, without Maud falling too unsympathetic in her god-like narcissism. It makes her character feel even more real, wanting so strongly to be pure and faithful that she wills herself into believing she can perform miracles. Ehle matches suit and brings the dynamic to the next level with her hot-and-cold manner, mixed with a subtle sarcasm that is easily doubted as a genuine interest in Maud — where the audience becomes just as confused as Maud if Amanda really likes her or not. Its ambiguity works well here, not concealing but emphasizing the confusing perspective that Maud is trying to work through. The other actor’s in the film complement this too, though not to the same degree. Everyone seems a lot more “normal” and uninspired, which is how Maud views them. They are not grandiose or multi-dimensional like Maud and Amanda. Instead, everyone else is simply neutral pawns in the game of good versus evil that is occurring — at least in Maud’s head.