As someone who frequently attends as many TIFF Midnight Madness premieres, I am saddened at the fact that I missed 2019’s screening of Saint Maud. Had I known that I wouldn’t be able to see the film until early 2021, I’d have found a way into the screening. Days after the premiere, it was announced that everyone’s favourite distribution company A24. By having A24 pick up the film, it said something, not about the quality of the film but also what type of horror we’ll be seeing. Now that I’ve seen the film, I can understand why they picked up the film, but also, even more so wishing that I had the opportunity to see this film in a theatre.
Maud (Morfydd Clark) is a hospice nurse after very recently being converted to be a Roman Catholic, she is taking care of Amanda (Jennifer Ehle), a former dancer and choreographer. One day Amanda states that she’s afraid of dying and all the things that come with facing oblivion. Maud, recently becoming religious over a recent incident with a previous patient believes she needs to save Amanda’s life. And if anybody has had any experience with an overstepping religious friend, you know the outcome would likely be troublesome, to say the least.
As most people haven’t had the opportunity to see the film yet, I won’t be discussing too much of the plot, outside of the content found in the trailer. While Amanda refers to her as “my little saviour,” there’s a lot to question about the validity of the statement, and about Maud’s relationship to “God.” She says she can hear him speak, and whenever she does, her body has an almost orgasmic response. Something is off because God doesn’t speak to anyone, and the reactions it gives wouldn’t do something so “unpure” (religious thinking, not my thinking). This brings the big question with the film, how much lives inside her mind, and how much is real? The film is mostly told through Maud’s point-of-view, so we have an unreliable narrator at all times.
Maud at one point fights against religion again just to be shown why she can’t deter away. To atone for her sins, as seen in the trailer, she puts pins in a picture that she slides into her shoes, and she steps into the shoes before walking around the city. She is punishing herself for the way she wasn’t able to save Amanda, even after she is mocked and tossed to the side. There’s a squishing noise that once you hear it, the noise gets under your skin and holds onto your bones.
I watched Saint Maud twice, once off the TV and the other off of my laptop with earphones. When I watched the film with my earphones, I was able to focus on the sound in the film, and the score. Like most great horror films, the film is so wonderfully atmospheric. It brings you into the world and makes you feel every step that Maud takes as those pins get deeper into her foot. I remember seeing The Babadook in theatres and hearing the cockroaches crawl on the theatre walls, and I wish I was able to have the same horrible but incredible experience in a theatre.
Rose Glass delivers one hell of a punch in her directorial debut, between two great performances from Morfydd and Jennifer. It’s a beauty to look at even if there are times you want to glance away from the screen, it pulls you in so that you can’t. I’m hoping that when things go back to normal, I’ll have the opportunity to see the film in theatres so I can suffer, just like Maud. Maybe not just like her, but, enough.