An 84-minute slow build that by the end will leave you absolutely breathless.
By Sean Blanford
Regret (verb): Fell sad, repentant, or disappointed over (something that has happened or been done, especially a loss or missed opportunity). I wanted to look up this definition to know with certainty that what I felt was regret, and it was, and that exact date and time was September 10th, 2019, at 10 pm Eastern Time. I was at the Toronto International Film Festival, and I had a ticket in hand to see this film. However, between the terrible weather and homework I had put off, I chose to give the ticket away, knowing that this film would be released in April of 2020. Well, we all know how that turned out. Now 522 days later and after a successful festival run and a theatrical release in the United Kingdom that saw it be nominated for seventeen British Independent Film Awards, I finally got the chance to watch Saint Maud, and it was well worth the wait.
Saint Maud stars Morfydd Clark as the titular Maud. She is a hospice nurse who, after a former patient’s death, is now taking care of Amanda (Jennifer Ehle), a wild woman who is knocking on death’s door. As Maud struggles with her memories of what happened in the past and her obsession with ensuring the same doesn’t happen with Amanda, Maud’s newly-found religious beliefs take over, blurring the lines between reality and her own mental state. Writer/Director Rose Glass (in her feature directorial debut) finds a way to maneuver through these complex topics like religion and mental health with a soft and caring touch while also treating it with the seriousness these issues deserve rather than as a crutch.
The screenplay and performance from Clark as Maud is the film’s biggest strengths. At a tight, compact 84-minutes after credits, the film wastes no time in diving into the story, allowing you to breathe through the first act, and by the end, you are left speechless with how the film concludes. This is as much of a journey for yourself as an audience member as it is for Maud. You may question some of her decisions and motivations, and sometimes even squirm (with one particular scene in the film trailer that I will not divulge), but one thing you won’t say is that it doesn’t make sense.
Overall, Saint Maud is a hell of a movie that deserves to be seen in whatever capacity you can. Knowing in the US that going to a theater may be difficult or impossible right now and that its rights are currently exclusive to Epix, those potential “minor inconveniences” shouldn’t detour you from seeking out one of the first great films of 2021.