April 14, 2024

SAINT MAUD (2020) – A study of psychosis and a savior complex

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Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ 1/2

The promotional posters for Saint Maud seem to imply that this is an extreme horror in the vein of The Exorcist or The Omen, but let me get this misconception out of the way. There are no monsters, demons, ghosts, or other paranormal entities in this movie. If you watch Saint Maud expecting such aberrations or some sort of visual blood bath, then you will be sadly disappointed.

Saint Maud is more a study of insanity taking a perilous turn. The horror that is depicted here is more subtle and implicit rather than visual. Director and writer Rose Glass film this transition intimately with through a tight script and camera work that takes us up close to the characters. This is Rose Glass’s first major movie and judging by the reactions she is getting from this, she has set herself a promising future.

The reason Saint Maud works so well is through the spellbinding performances of the main actress Morfydd Clark as the self appointed savior nurse, and an equally fascinating supporting performance by Jennifer Ehle as the terminally ill patient. Their relationship is told through simple scenes which resonant with the audience simply by virtue of how natural they are depicted and hence, believable. This makes the disturbing final act even more shocking. Morfydd Clark’s portrayal of a deeply complex character who has an unusual relationship with God is Oscar worthy. Her sweet innocent look and demeanour here demonstrates how insanity can often be disguised to people around who do not pay enough attention. Using the Christian religion as the centre of the story is a bit risque but here, it does not feel exploitative, although I suppose there will always be people who would this film offensive. I feel the whole story would work just as well with any other fate or obsession.

While Saint Maud is not a horror movie in the conventional sense, the horror that it depicts here is far more real and hence, impactful. This is not an easy watch and you should have your expectations managed. It’s haunting story and images will linger in your mind long after the credits have rolled.

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