Maud (Morfydd Clark) says her prayers at night, and impatiently asks God for a task worthy of her devotion to him.
Careful what you wish for, Maud.
English writer-director Rose Glass unveils a disturbing, disintegrating portrait of a pious hospice nurse so anxious for meaning in her dismal life, that she creates her own.
Judging by the fiery final frame of Saint Maud, things don’t go as planned.
In a gloomy English town, Maud gets up each day to tend the terminally ill Amanda (Jennifer Ehle), a free-thinking extrovert whose bohemian behavior is a bucket of ice water on the nurse’s tightly held beliefs.
Her patient’s libidinous relationship with the seductive Carol (Lily Frazer) becomes unbearable to Maud’s ascetic sensibility, so she takes it upon herself to send the woman away—for Amanda’s own good.
This encourages Maud to step up her attempts to save Amanda’s damaged soul.
We patiently come to learn things about Maud, who comes from a long line of unreliable narrators. For one thing, that’s not her real name, and the devotional lifestyle is apparently a recent conversion, coming on the heels of a traumatic event.
There are ample clues to demonstrate her flimsy grasp on reality, as when Amanda ridicules her faith at a social gathering, and Maud slaps her face.
This rather unorthodox method doesn’t go over well, and it’s all downhill from there.
Without her mission to save Amanda, Maud hits the skids in a big way, seeking comfort at a pub where she gets wasted and sleeps with Joe Rando. She quickly realizes that secular pleasures don’t do anything for her higher self.
Just when all seems lost, Maud has a miraculous mystical episode in her dreary apartment that levitates her off the ground! And thus spiritually fortified, she returns to visit the dying Amanda one last time.
Recent fare like The Dark and the Wicked, Amulet, Antlers, and now Saint Maud, all seem to take place in the same pressurized godless vacuum, which can be challenging to absorb, especially if you’re allergic to hopelessness.
It can wear on you and leave a mark. But you won’t soon forget it, either. The talented Rose Glass has conjured powerful images here that are already filed away in your screaming subconscious.
Actress Morfydd Clark is a lightning bolt revelation in the title role, thoroughly committing herself to a difficult character. Maud is a well-intentioned soul, who, depending upon your interpretation of the final scene, stumbles over her pride and falls into darkness. Like Lucifer.
In this damned place, there are no other options.