By Christian DiMartino
Thank God for A24.
I have said it before, and I will say it once again. It’s weird to think that just a production company could attract such an interest, and I’d be lying if this particular production company didn’t always attract an interest. The real reason, honestly, is that A24 is one of those that doesn’t feel like an actual company; for the most part, most of their films are truly original and come from artists very worthy of Academy Awards, even if they don’t care about gaining Academy Awards. They’re just in it for the movie, man. So as if 2020 wasn’t awful enough, you can imagine how difficult it was only getting THREE A24 movies, and we’re only now getting two of them. The first, to my knowledge, was Sofia Copploa’s On the Rocks, which isn’t quite a great film, but is one her best and worthy of more discussion. There is also the recent Minari, which is gaining awards traction, and the film of the hour, Saint Maud.
Alright folks, so here it is. The trailer for this film premiered before A24’s flawless Uncut Gems, and boy, the waiting has been the hardest part. For some, the sitting through it will be the hardest part. Saint Maud is most certainly not going to be a film for everyone. It’s weird, genuinely creepy, completely nutty, perhaps not fully original while feeling fully original, and since I’m a sick puppy, I’ll say it: it’s my idea of a good time. This is the film that A24 thrives on, and once again, they’ve no doubt succeeded. That is, again, depending on who you are.
The film, written and directed by newcomer Rose Glass (her and Ari Aster would make a fabulous couple), follows a live-in nurse named Maud (played by Morfydd Clark, who I have apparently seen before but does not seem familiar). Maud is lonely, awkward, and sees herself as something of a savior, due to her strong religious beliefs. She is currently taking care of a former dancer named Amanda (Jennifer Ehle, excellent here), who is dying of cancer. Amanda also sees Maud as something of a savior, but she’s also the type of person who could appear to be sincere, while being condescending. Maud being Maud though, Amanda sparks a feeling in Maud, and thus, Maud becomes a little too involved in Amanda’s life, yet in her eyes it’s in her best interest. Even before things between Maud and Amanda take a sour turn, Maud begins coming undone- she has gasping fits, she inflicts pain upon herself, etc. It’s after Maud and Amanda part ways though where Maud really starts to mentally unravel.
I’d like to say more, but shouldn’t because if Saint Maud appears to be your thing, it will be. It is my thing. The film isn’t horrific or necessarily gory, and yet it will disturb and get under your skin in the best ways. It’s a very well crafted, near perfectly written, directed and acted piece of work that holds you in its grip for under 90 minutes. By the final act, not only was I entranced, but I was shook and kind of horrified, if only at the morbid curiosity of where the film was going to go next. There comes a scene towards the end where an old acquaintance of Maud’s comes to visit her at her apartment, and even though nothing happens here, it’s the great work of Glass and Clark that had me on the edge of my seat. Glass because of the buildup that she established, and Clark because of the character that she pulls off convincingly, beautifully well.
So, yeah, Saint Maud is my kind of thing, from beginning to its completely nutty end. I’d be lying if the ending didn’t make me laugh, and not because it’s in any way funny, but because it’s so bat-bleep crazy, I didn’t know how else to react to it. Truth be told though, I pretty much love this movie. It’s a bizarre but undeniably effective little number with images that linger in the mind long after you see it, and like most films to come from A24, it’s certainly going to spark the discussion that it deserves.