Devout Catholic palliative care nurse Maud (Morfydd Clark) is tasked with providing in-home end-of-life care for dancer and choreographer Amanda (Jennifer Ehle), who is in the final stages of lymphoma. Acerbic, brittle Amanda is a hedonist (and queer to boot!) and clearly doesn’t think there’s an afterlife waiting for her. Maud believes God has sent her here to save Amanda’s soul.
What is more horrifying: the existence of God or His absence? That seems to be the central question in this utterly compelling debut feature from writer and director Rose Glass. And make no mistake: Saint Maud is a horror movie par excellence, starting off in fairly straight forward psychodrama territory before spiraling down into far stranger and more disturbing areas.
The film’s inspirations are apparent to the keen eye—the faith-based horror of The Exorcist, the Gothic sensibilities of Shirley Jackson, David Cronenberg’s unflinching and distressing body horror, Paul Schrader’s fascination with aberrant psychology—but Glass is not merely borrowing here, she’s reinterpreting, making something wholly new from existing elements. It’s a stunningly assured film; it’s rare for a first feature to feel as though it’s exactly the film it needs to be, but that’s the case here. Every shot, cut, design element is perfectly in place.