Written by: Rose Glass
Starring: Morfydd Clark & Jennifer Ehle
In its purest sense, religion can be such a positive for individuals looking to believe in some sort of higher being. However, as with everything else, imperfect humans try to draw their own, often erroneous, conclusions as to what it means in their way of life. From enforcing their beliefs on others to the delusion expressed in Saint Maud where someone believes they can forcibly save another. Mix in some creepy imagery with this thought and you have an unsettling portrait of evangelism at its worst.
Working as a private palliative care nurse, Maud (Morfydd Clark) receives a new client, Amanda (Jennifer Ehle). While caring for Amanda, Maud notices her patient’s atheist ways and wishes to show her the way of the Lord. With bits of rejection from Amanda to believe, Maud fails to cope in regard to what it means for her.
Quiet and seemingly sweet, the breakdown of Maud as a character fascinates because of how we can never definitively know what lies with reality or feeds her delusions of grandeur. She fails to pick up on moments where others mock her and genuinely believes in everything her idea of salvation looks like. This would make for harmless interactions on her part, but when she begins to put this out on others, things get a bit complicated, only further unraveling her psyche and how she seemingly goes through her day.
There’s a sense throughout the story that religion has not always been something Maud put her heart into with expressions of actions from her past. She essentially took her faith as an adult and dove into the point where it makes her uncomfortable to be around. This becomes the case the more she interacts with Amanda and how cute little sarcastic sayings by the client like “You’re my savior” go right to Maud’s head and activates this once quiet need to truly evangelize others to her faith. This really sets things off and they go off the rails very quickly.
This delusion of grandeur flowing all through Maud makes this such an internalized film as we go through this disturbing journey with her by hearing all of her thoughts, but most importantly, seeing how she perceives the world. From judging others and having a low bar for debauchery, her relationship with her Lord comes with plenty of complications but it outlines a bigger theme for those who use their religion as a crutch for a personality. Individuals like Maud seemingly do not find connections with other people easily, which makes her transition to devoting everything to a higher being who sees her as good so appealing. Through her lord’s eyes, she can go to heaven just by following some rules and then bringing others in, which makes her relationship with Amanda so complicated. Coming in as a mix of care and perhaps some repressed sexual feelings, Amanda represents everything Maud wants to eradicate from her desire for her patient as well as the debauchery happening in her home.
Scares in this feature do not arrive in the jumpscare fashion but rather in the unsettling discombobulation of Maud’s psyche as she begins to reach a point of no return. The ridicule she receives from others only pushes her further back into reliance on her religious beliefs, which only leaves more concerns and questions as to what she will eventually do next. From awkward situations where she obviously does not understand she’s the butt of the joke, the horror of this truly breaks her down with each passing interaction.
Starring in the feature is Morfydd Clark who absolutely shines in this role as she carries the emotional work of this narrative along with the direction of Rose Glass. This collaborative effort makes for a deeply tense and disturbing piece of work. Clark needs to really sell this sweetness of the character and the naivete necessary to demonstrate how Maud would go down this route of trying to evangelize someone like Amanda. This along with the very physical connections with God she experiences throughout the feature, Morfydd Clark really had her work cut out for her and excelled.
Intelligently composed and ending with an absolute dagger that pretty much sums up the lesson of this story, Saint Maud takes religious delusion to the next level. What begins as a bit of innocence transforms into a difficult and eye-watering level of misguidedness that serves as a good warning for not letting something like religion define your entire personality and life. Maud lets that occur, which makes her fall into exactly what the title suggests in this quest to prove to her God that she’s worthy.