Updated: Aug 21, 2020
Saint Maud (Rose Glass, 2019)
With the proliferation of online streaming service companies, the film industry had changed considerably in the last five years. There as some pros and cons, about which I am not going to write in detail, but there's at least one undeniable fact: sales and producers are looking for creative content. Free-to-air television channels, such as Film4, had to invest in the search for new talents, and specifically for female voices. It's under those circumstances that a voice such as Rose Glass was heard. I must confess, what a stylish cry!
As a movie produced for British TV, thriller is certainly not a risky bet. It is a popular genre among the British, as you can verify on this list released by the BFI. But Saint Maud is definitely not a common thriller. The film is set in Coney Island, UK, that despite being a seaside town, it is soaked up in loneliness. Its mostly empty beach is the perfect scenario to Katie, or Saint Maud, a nurse that has recently converted into Christianism. She's about to start a new job, as a carer in Amanda's house. Amanda, 49, is a former choreographer who is now spending her days begging for company in her wheelchair.
Maud and Amanda's clash is not only based on class and upbringing differences, Maud representing the essence of spiritual life, and Amanda's a preacher of hedonism. Most of all it puts into check mental issues. It is clear from the beginning that Maud is a tormented soul, and Amanda has long ago left the phase "mens sana in corpore sano".
Both characters have suffered traumas. Amanda's pain is visible and clinical, it's certainly difficult to cope with her new reality as her own life was devoted to movement. Something must have happened to Maud. It becomes clear when she meets a former co-worker who is surprised she's still working as a nurse.
Gradually, Maud's mind is revealed. It's dark. A whole set of artifices comes to life to build up this darkness: from insects to William Blake's paintings. We become aware that God is the second main character. Saint Maud speaks directly to narratives such as Paul Schrader's First Reformed -- read our review here. Likewise Ethan Hawke's character, Maud has to encourage someone else to face his demons when herself is failing to face her own.
In her debut film, Rose Glass has already formed her own solid style, with tints of gothic psychological drama. Saint Maud is part of the London Film Festival, that is currently on. If you miss it, check Film4 future program.