Saint Maud: Bold Horror With a New Star
Faith, madness, and horror are easily intertwined. We’ve seen all three elements woven together in movies going back to THE EXORCIST, which helped horror become massively popular in the first place. Films that feature possessions, and those with hauntings, such as THE CONJURING, all have some collision of this cinematic trio. Faith leads characters to the belief in something greater than us; madness pushes that belief into the realms of pure horror.
The new movie SAINT MAUD is a quietly creepy affair that steadily becomes fully unnerving as it follows a young woman whose faith may be… let's say somewhat misplaced. A superbly acted movie with unnerving sequences and an eye-opening climax, SAINT MAUD should be one of the defining new horror movies of 2020.
A New Filmmaking Voice
[Image Credit: A24]
Morfydd Clark stars as Maud, a deeply pious hospice nurse whose background is somewhat mysterious. As the film begins she is starting to care for Amanda (Jennifer Ehle), a dancer whose illness has not dampened her social life or hedonistic spirit. Maud quickly comes to believe that Amanda needs to be saved, and is determined to be the one to do it. Amanda mocks Maud, then becomes concerned for her — and it doesn't take long for things to spiral out of control.
Whatever that description leads you to expect from SAINT MAUD, the reality of the film is something almost certainly quite different. This is the first feature from writer/director Rose Glass, whose script and direction lead Maud and Amanda into unexpected territory.
This movie never suggests that there is anything wrong with Maud's faith. Her emotional well-being is another question, however. This nurse is not well, and her instability leads her to carry her faith into extreme and uncomfortable scenarios and it becomes something more than a simple devotion.
A Star in the Making
Even if you're not a huge horror fan, the best reason to see SAINT MAUD is the lead performance from Morfydd Clark. This Welsh actress had a few small but notable roles over the last few years, but in 2019 she started to be seen everywhere. She's in the films ETERNAL BEAUTY and THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD, and has important roles in the series "Dracula" and "His Dark Materials." Her next big project is Amazon's "The Lord of the Rings" series, where she'll play Galadriel, who was played in Peter Jackson's film series by Cate Blanchett.
Taking a role most recently associate with Blanchett — a performer of tremendous range and power — is one of the best indicators of Clark's potential, outside of her actual work. In SAINT MAUD, Clark plays Maud with a mixture of conviction and vulnerability that turns the character into a woman who is deeply, desperately afraid that her beliefs will turn out not to be true.
Clark's skills are put to the test as her character's hold on sanity becomes more tenuous. She rises to the challenge of playing out Maud's story — as does first-time filmmaker Rose Glass. Together they make SAINT MAUD into something special and unforgettable.
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All images courtesy of A24.