LFF Review #3 – Saint Maud [63rd BFI London Film Festival]

 

SAINT MAUD [Official Competition]

Director: Rose Glass

Cast: Morfydd Clark, Jennifer Ehle

UK Distributor: Studiocanal


Genre: Psychological Horror • Year: 2019 • Country: UK • Running Time: 83 minutes • Image: Colour • Language: English


With this impressive and highly accomplished directorial debut, writer and director Rose Glass has announced herself as a bold and intriguing new voice in British independent cinema, and it is no great surprise that major players like Film4 and the BFI have backed this bold and striking new film.

Set in a rather bleak and dingy British seaside town, Morfydd Clark stars as the reclusive and socially awkward Maud, a staunchly Catholic nurse with a troubled past brought in to provide palliative care for the ailing and disabled Amanda (Jennifer Ehle), a once famous dancer now virtually housebound in her overgrown and isolated coastal mansion.

Though she clearly has great admiration for her new patient, Maud disapproves of her alcohol, cigarette and drug heavy lifestyle – not to mention her intermittent dalliances with a female escort – and convinces herself she can draw her away from the murky path she has strayed on to. What then unfolds in an increasingly dark and disturbing study of obsession, jealousy, delusion and distorted reality as we begin to learn more about the enigmatic Maud, and the reasons behind her strict devotion to her faith.

Clark is a highly compelling lead and does a superb job in charting the journey of such a complex and conflicted character, and Ehle is excellent as the acerbic Amanda, with their contrasting performances working perfectly together.

Introducing more traditional horror elements as the film unfolds, Glass paints a dark tale rich in symbolism and infused with sharp dialogue and some fairly graphic imagery; scenes of flagellation can be particularly wince-inducing. Added to a very powerful final sequence, Glass leaves us with what is possibly the most disturbing final image you are likely to see all year!

Saint Maud is an incredibly assured debut from the filmmaker and many will surely now be waiting with great anticipation to see what she brings us next.


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