If you’ve paid attention to Twitter – particularly the chaotic faction known as Film Twitter – at any point last year, there were loud calls for A24 to release writer-director Rose Glass’ feature debut Saint Maud. Film Twitter, much to its chagrin, has to wait until July (hopefully) for A24’s other desperately sought-after title The Green Knight. In the meantime, the distributor has decided to release Saint Maud in a limited theatrical run starting January 29, with a streaming date set for February 12.
Glass’ film had its premiere at the 2019 Toronto Film Festival, and made several other festival stops throughout the rest of 2019 and early into 2020. It was slated for a Spring 2020 release but, as we all know, the world shut down, and put the entire film industry in limbo. As we are all learning, studios can only hold onto product for so long, so your prayers have been answered, Film Twitter, Saint Maud is ready to descend upon you.
In some ways, the film’s delays have been a solid bit of marketing, coupled with its U.K. release in 2020. The movie has received a great deal of acclaim, including a bevy of nominations from the British Independent Film Awards. There’s certainly a lot to spotlight in Saint Maud but the movie ultimately feels like a great deal of build-up to a mere shrug of a conclusion.
Maud (Morfydd Clark) is a deeply religious nurse, who is sent to care for a terminally ill patient. Amanda (Jennifer Ehle) doesn’t hold the same values as Maud, who isn’t afraid to let her beliefs be known, but tries to be as respectful as possible. Amanda has even dubbed Maud her “savior.” As the film progresses, the dynamic between the two changes and that’s all you need to know if you plan on experiencing Saint Maud.
As a first feature, Saint Maud is impeccably crafted. Glass has an ability to put us in Amanda’s home, which allows the audience to feel the tension rising in the confines of the house as the relationship between Maud and Amanda changes. Saint Maud is an effective piece of mood and imagery, but as things get progressively more terrifying in the movie, Saint Maud starts to feel a bit more familiar.
Clark has been in a few known projects, but her performance as Maud is the one that will catapult her to the top of people’s lists. She lives so deeply within Maud, finding ways to navigate from meek innocence to the bigger moments of the movie. Her rapport with Ehle (who is always great) offers subtle unease to the unsubtle imagery surrounding the movie.
The movie clocks in at under 90 minutes, but the sparse plot feels like it struggles to meet the short runtime. Once the final moments roll around, it feels like Saint Maud was mostly set-up without much execution. Saint Maud doesn’t entirely work, but it introduces the world to a new filmmaker with a keen eye for atmosphere.