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SAINT MAUD: 3 ½ STARS. “sizzling mix of psychological drama and devotion.”

Is Maud (Morfydd Clark), the nurse at the centre of the genuinely creepy “Saint Maud,” a true believer, a woman touched by the hand of God, or a troubled person looking for answers in all the wrong places?

Opening with scenes of an unexplained medical accident, “Saint Maud” wastes no time hinting at the grim visuals to come. Cut to Maud in her dowdy bedsit. Gathering her things, she makes her way out the door, wondering to God what her place in the world is. “Surely I was meant for more than this,” she says as she arrives at the home of her charge, a glamorous former dancer named Amanda (Jennifer Ehle), a late stage cancer patient.

They are an odd couple. Amanda is used to a life of indulgence while Maud is an intensely devout palliative care nurse who believes salvation comes through suffering. “Never waste your pain,” she says. Maud does not approve of Amanda’s lifestyle, but the two women seem to bond in a moment of shared religious ecstasy. Later, when it becomes clear that Amanda isn’t looking for salvation, Maud is fired, pushed to even more extreme behavior to fulfill what she sees as God’s plan for her life.

“Saint Maud” carefully doles out its shocks, allowing a shroud of unease to envelop the proceedings. British writer-director Rose Glass has made an up-close-and-personal horror film that details the protagonist’s torment in very vivid terms. Much of what happens is internal, portrayed through Clark’s finely crafted performance. She is both vulnerable and steely, zealous and unsure before the events of the climax reveal her relationship with God. Whether it is real a test of her faith or imagined is open to interpretation. The final twenty minutes of this short film—with credits it’s eighty-five minutes—are a surreal culmination to Maud’s internal struggle, ripe with religious imagery, gothic sensibility and martyrdom.

“Saint Maud” is a sizzling mix of psychological drama and devotion that could have used a dose of backstory to help us understand why Maud became pious to the point of extremity. As it is we get hints along the way, and while the story is still very effective, it could have been deepened by a better glimpse into Maud’s past.


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