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Saint Maud, Morfydd Clark, Jennifer Ehle, (Horror Movie Review)

Saint Maud, Morfydd Clark, Jennifer Ehle, (Horror Movie Review)
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PLOT: After a young nurse, Maud (Morfydd Clark), cannot save a patient and has a psychotic breakdown that leads to a quasi-religious awakening. With the Lord firmly on her side (or so she believes), Maud decides that she must save the soul of her next subject no matter what.

LOWDOWN: Maud is the sweet yet susceptible type that doesn't quite have the confidence or street smarts to navigate life's complexities. I ain't saying she's a destined for failure or a hopeless fool, but the kind of person that's more than likely going to be raked over the coals we call life. We start at her lowest point, trying to save a flat-lining patient only to inflict more damage. This incident would haunt even the most even-tempered soul, but it f*cked Maud up bad. The story starts a bit of time after this, with her now entirely devoted to the Lord and savior. Using a terrible situation and the traumatic aftermath as a test from God, she sort of forms her own version of his teachings and his plan for her.

Getting a job looking after a terminally ill former dancer, Amanda (Jennifer Ehle), Maud see's Amanda's zest for life, in the form of the classics like booze, sex, and lavish parties, the ultimate sin and the reason they've been brought together. She must save Amanda's enteral soul before the Devil gets his pick. It's a simple premise that's executed to near perfection by director and writer Rose Glass in her feature-length debut. Saint Maud is a beautifully disturbing religious tale that borrows the awkwardness of Lynch along with the body horror of Cronenberg yet makes it wholly her own. Rose makes sure the only perspective we get is Maud's and, by doing so, gives us an unreliable narrator. The world is a rundown seaside English town full of sinners, drunkards, and douchebags. Everything is uncomfortable at best and depressing at worst. Because we see the world through the eyes of Maud, the world is a dark and scary place.

Though a religious film that delves Into the psyche of a "true believer," This never once felt disingenuous or even remotely cynical about the "religion" it was exploring. Saint Maud is more of the thought of religion skewed through Maud's perception. She doesn't even know what she believes as her version of God is a giant cockroach (not quite a biblical interpretation). When the almighty does speak to her, it seems to come in the form of intense orgasms (probably how I'd want them to, if I'm being honest). Amanda represents the closest to real life. Someone who loved and lived, and has enough common sense to be cynical about the death sentence she's been given and, in a moment of honesty, confides in Maud that she's scared of death and the great unknown the awaits her after.

Jennifer Ehle gives a damn fine performance as the film's only grounded character. As everyone else is warped through Maud's perceptive, Amber holds her own as a faded, sad yet empowered women who lived a whole f*cking life and is pissed to see it end this way. Maybe because I relate to her mentality, I loved how different she was from anyone else in the movie. Of course, it's this juxtaposition that causes Muad to adopt a savior complex worse than Jack Shepard and uses Amanda as her only purpose in life. Saint Maud is a movie the relies solely on its performances. Jennifer Ehle gives Amanda so much energy that she stole the show at times, while Morfydd Clark blew me away as Maud. She would get an Oscar for her performance f the award show had any balls, but sadly, I'm willing to bet everything that once again will ignore horror as it always does.

I don't have much in terms of feedback except that this follows a popular trend that's been around for a little while. The trend of ambiguity for the sake of discussion. Does it work here? Sure, but does this need to be ambiguous? Not really. The story isn't hinged on the mystery of Maud (the narrator is unreliable, and that's no secret) but the tragic tale of a girl who is lost, mentally ill, and in a sad state of being. Maybe I hope that some movie will play it straight and forgo the discussion for the sake of it. But that's my opinion, and I won't dock the film for it.

GORE: We get a few bloody scenes, but Saint Maud is more about the mental state than physical violence.

BOTTOM LINE: Saint Maud excels with cinematography, direction, score, and, of course, acting. This is a black hole of an experience that pulls you down with it and expels any hope or redemption early on. I love when a movie crushes any sense of optimism and brings you hand-in-hand with the Devil himself. Saint Maud will quickly be one of the best movies of the year, despite coming out this early. It's that damn good. Like a bad mushroom trip, this will leave you questioning life and existence through the lens of fear and defeat.

Saint Maud will be hitting theaters in a limited release on Friday January 29th and on digital / VOD February 12th.

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