Saint Maud (4 stars)

Saint Maud

GFF 2020: Rose Glass's impressive, darkly disturbing debut stars Morfydd Clark and Jennifer Ehle

Beginning in mysterious and bloody style, writer-director Rose Glass sets a darkly disturbing tone from the opening moments of her impressive first feature. A psychological horror about a nurse working in palliative care, Saint Maud immerses the viewer in the mind of an isolated young woman who embarks on an alarming crusade to save the soul of her patient. Morfydd Clark (The Personal History of David Copperfield) assumes the titular role, while Jennifer Ehle plays Maud's charge, the retired dancer Amanda.

Amanda's lifestyle and sexuality set the pious and obsessively religious Maud on edge. Surrounded by creative types and performers, Amanda is intent on celebrating her final days on earth with glamourous gatherings and pleasurable erotic encounters. The charismatic Ehle has a ball, sporting a mixture of fancy turbans and sparkling frocks while partying, and patterned dressing gowns when bedbound. Meanwhile, Maud is holed up in tiny accommodation, punishing herself via painful rituals. The contrast between the two is the catalyst for a bitter battle of wits and strength. As Maud attempts to control her patient, Amanda bites back with nasty retorts.

Unfolding in an unnamed seaside town, and filmed in Scarborough, the tightly wound protagonist glides ominously through kitsch attractions and natural surroundings, with cinematographer Ben Fordesman transforming twinkling lights into a surreal nightmare of loneliness and doom. It is by turns claustrophobic, with Glass closing in on haunted faces, and vast, in the way it reaches into the depths of the human condition to expose raw wounds and fragile inner lives. Boundary pushing and barnstormingly performed, together, Glass, Clark and Ehle represent a holy trinity of talent, setting the screen ablaze with an intensity that rarely lets up.

Screened as part of the Glasgow Film Festival 2020. General release from Fri 1 May.

Saint Maud

  • 4 stars
  • 2019
  • UK
  • 1h 24min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Rose Glass
  • Cast: Morfydd Clark, Jennifer Ehle, Lily Knight

Maud (Clark) is an obsessively religious nurse, working in palliative care for retired dancer Amanda (Ehle), whose uninhibited lifestyle sets Maud on edge. Impressive first feature from Glass, which turns into a surreal nightmare of loneliness and doom: barnstorming performances from Clark and Ehle set the screen on fire.