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Up and coming British director Rose Glass proves she’s a new mistress of horror with this chilling tale.
A reclusive young nurse named Maud (Morfydd Clark) lives a life devoted to faith and haunted by a traumatic past when she is hired as a carer for a terminally ill celebrated dancer, Amanda (Jennifer Ehle).
As Maud spends more and more time with Amanda, they share stories and the nurse learns more about her ward’s past and lifestyle and becomes intent on saving her soul for God.
However, it becomes increasingly clear that Maud’s beliefs are built on something much darker and disturbing than first appears, leading to a nightmarish reckoning.
Choosing to ground the ghoulish chills in a straight character study of the troubled yet naive Maud, Glass grounds her film in the performance of her star and what a brittle but unpredictable turn it is from Clark.
Morfydd Clark stars as the devout nurse Maud
(Image: Angus Young/A24/StudioCanal UK)
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Having already made memorable appearances in The Personal History of David Copperfield, His Dark Materials and Eternal Beauty, Clark carries a manner that is simultaneously ethereal and ordinary as Maud, which makes her both a sympathetic but terrifying anti-heroine.
Ably supporting Clark is Ehle as a fading diva who grows increasingly fabulous and brutally honest as Maud’s grand ideas grow out of hand and show a judgemental eye that Amanda will not tolerate.
Jennifer Ehle plays Maud's patient, an ailing dancer named Amanda
(Image: A24 Films)
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The film rests on uneasiness about how far Maud will go to save Amanda’s soul and how far she will to punish herself for her own sins and to feel closer to what she thinks is the voice of God.
Tapping into the pulsating paranoia of her protagonists, Glass follows Maud empathetically as she searches for meaning at all costs and the demonic elements of her script take a hold, evoking powerful themes surrounding Catholic faith, mental illness and sexual repression.
Maud is haunted by trauma, a devout religious belief, and mental illness
(Image: A24/StudioCanal UK)
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One memorable episode sees Maud attempt to leave her worries behind and truly lose herself in a queasy trial of hedonism, only to find herself collapsing once again beneath a sense of self-punishment.
Glass uses a sense of dread and psychological unease present in films as far back as Rosemary's Baby and as recent as The Witch but adds her own unique twist on proceedings.
The final moments of Saint Maud will 'linger long in the memory'
(Image: A24/StudioCanal UK)
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Evoking a disturbing danger in the seemingly mundane, Saint Maud climaxes with some startling imagery that will leave you aghast, with final moments that will linger long in the memory.
So, if you’re looking for a new horror saviour, Maud is the one for you.
Saint Maud is thoroughly atmospheric, unsettling, and uncompromisingly tragic character study that proves both director Rose Glass and star Morfydd Clark are new talents to behold. The ending will leave your jaw on the floor.
Saint Maud is released in UK cinemas on October 9, 2020.
What is your favourite psychological horror? Let us know in the comments below.