Saint Maud (15)

Morfydd Clarke in Saint Maud

Morfydd Clarke in Saint Maud - Credit: Angus Young

Directed by Rose Glass. Starring Morfydd Clark, Jennifer Ehle, Lily Knight, Lily Frazer, Rosie Sansom and Turlough Convery. Out on Blu-ray/ DVD/ VOD from Studiocanal. Running time: 84 mins.

In horror film terms, Maud (Clark) is both Regan and Father Karras; the possessed child and the exorcist.

A recent trauma has seen her retreat from hospital nursing and become gripped by religious fervour. Amanda (Ehle) is a terminally ill former choreographer and dancer now stuck in a wheelchair with stage 4 lymphoma, who doesn't believe there is a maker to meet and is scared of the prospect of nothingness.

When she gets the position as her live-in carer, Maud takes on the task of bringing about her salvation.

One of the derangements of lockdown is that with little else around, a quiet level of hysteria has attached itself to Rose Glass's highly assured debut. Back in October 2019, this hybrid horror/psychological drama was well received at the London Film Festival. Fifteen months later, a steady accumulation of rave reviews has seen it become the most nominated film at the 2020 London Critic's Circle awards.

Jennifer Ehle in Saint Maud

Jennifer Ehle in Saint Maud - Credit: Courtesy of A24 Films


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Among the nominees, it is one of the few to have been seen in cinemas by real people.

The first thing to say is put aside ideas about it being a horror film. There are certain thematic overlaps but this is a British film that has received award-season validation and like most British films that receive award season validation it is a glum drama about the dispossessed.

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And it is a very good one. The two central performances are fiercely committed. The drab misery of the British seaside out of season - amusement arcades in rain, chip dinners in harshly lit cafes - is painfully well captured by Ben Fordesman's cinematography. The film is sparing with its supernatural flourishes and because of that they really hit home.

Through various mishaps and non-alignments, I had failed to see this in 2020. As a result, I find myself in 2021 viewing it from the other side of the rubicon, more punter than critic. And as an ordinary punter, I'd have to say that it doesn't live up to all the hype and acclaim. Afterwards I could see what the fuss was all about, while at the same time thinking - is that all there is to "A Mesmerising Horror Masterpiece?"

3/5 stars

http://www.halfmanhalfcritic.com/ for a review of A Glitch in the Matrix, a documentary about living in a simulated reality.

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