Review: Saint Maud

One thing that’s worse than having a new Mica Levi score to put up with is the prospect of new work by one of their imitators. In the case of Rose Glass’s Saint Maud, Adam Janota Bzowski’s choral phrases battle against discordant strings and resounding, heavy honks, mirroring the way the film pulls in two directions at once, as palliative care nurse Maud (Morfydd Clark) either unravels or accepts a divinely ordained task. But the score begs for an intensity the images aren’t up to holding; and without intensity, this is simply a string of scenes that make half-assertions about Maud and her mind, and so the film falters because it can’t fulfil the rudiments of its own design. A shame, too, because Jennifer Ehle’s performance, as Amanda, Maud’s final patient, is at times hard to gauge in an intriguing way, with sudden calcifications of demeanour and disconcerting smiles. Likewise, Clark’s vocal performance is sharp: her shyness of voice contrasts with her forthright, confessional voice-over in a nice register; her eye-acting, in a scene with another of Ehle’s carers, is a note overdetermined though, always failing to leave a viewer any room to make their mind up on proceedings. Also—rolling the image on to its side, or inverting it totally: terrible decision. I hate it in Gaspar Noé’s Climax; I hate it in Ari Aster’s Midsommar; and I hate it here. But it does create the conditions for the preposterous final stretch, in which Glass abandons the loaded possibilities within her script (notions of Maud’s loneliness, sexuality, religious masochism and poisoned ideas of salvation) and instead pursues the aforementioned “divination or delusion?” gambit into a dead end—until the final shot denies even that ambiguity. Not to be too cynical, but I do tend to get suspicious whenever the UK staff critic class anoints a new name in British cinema, because the security of their positions depends upon their ability to overrate filmmakers within the country. In the case of Saint Maud, I’m not being cynical enough. 

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