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Saturday, February 13, 2021

Review: Saint Maud

Director: Rose Glass

Screenplay: Rose Glass

Year: 2021

“Satin Maud” was scheduled to be released this past April, and it was rumored among those who had early access that it would be one of the great movies of 2020. However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced theaters to close their doors and the studio A24 to delay the release until the outlook looked more favorable for the box office. Since it is still unknown when theaters will operate at their full capacity, A24 decided to release it betting on drive-ins and the excellent reception digital platforms have received.

In “Saint Maud”, Maud is a nurse that begins working with a patient whose outlook indicates she’s close to dying. Her strong religious convictions lead her to save her patient’s soul, but her goodwill soon become an obsession. Maud is convinced of the presence of something divine, and her religious obsession starts taking hard blows to her mental stability. 

The question in the mind of all of us who have been anxiously waiting for this movie is if it lives to the level of the expectations created through it’s marketing. Well, the answer is an emphatic and disappointed no. Let’s start by stating that I would not even classify “Saint Maud” as a horror movie, but rather as a deep character study psychological thriller that explores the mental decay of a woman obsessed with religion. Then we have to consider its artistic value and entertainment factor. 

There is no doubt about its artistic value. The very start shows the artistic vibes that characterize A24 productions and the importance put into the cinematography, atmosphere, and symbolism present in each shot. It’s almost entirely female cast (and adding the director and screenwriter who is also a woman), do a phenomenal job, with powerful interpretations by Morfydd Clark (“Crawl”) and Jennifer Ehle (“Little Man”) that pulls you wholly into the character’s psyche. Praises are extended to the director Rose Glass for achieving such a great work directing her debut full-length feature, which makes you optimistic about the future of this young filmmaker. 

Where “Saint Maud” crumbles is in the entertainment factor. The movie is a slow burn, and what takes this kind of movies towards success or failure is how it resolves the tension that it accumulates through its development. The first issue is that while it creates enough interest for its characters, it doesn’t create much tension. Then, when it should make the most out of whatever tension it generates and our interest in the characters, it offers a flat resolution that doesn’t reward the viewer for its patience through the slow development. 

This movie holds many parallels with “Relic”, another of those movies marketed as the new horror sensation, but that ended up being disappointing. On the one hand, both have an almost exclusively female cast, which is refreshing to see in cinema in general. On the other hand, both movies focus so much on the artistic and symbolic areas that they forget to offer an entertaining experience, even with how depressing the topic they both work with is, which detracts from their objectives. 

“Saint Maud” is the most recent example of deceptive marketing, where we were offered a horror masterpiece, and we didn’t even get a horror movie. To all of those that are considering it to be a horror masterpiece, I urge you to go watch “Hereditary” and “The Witch”, then come back and try to convince me that “Saint Maud” deserves a spot between those two. I’m in the middle of the road with this movie mainly because of the excellent performances in acting and cinematography, but from an entertainment standpoint, it is as dull as dying.

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