Horror film Saint Maud, the gut-churning debut from British writer-director Rose Glass, takes us inside the mind of a pious care nurse with a messiah complex
Following an opening image of bloody carnage, Rose Glass's hugely confident first feature transports us to the Spartan digs belonging to Morfydd Clark’s Maud, a tightly-wound palliative care nurse in some unnamed seaside town. She’s a deeply religious young woman, but her sarky narration suggests she’s not as pious as she might appear. When she meets her new patient Amanda (Ehle), a former avant-garde dancer clinging on to her hedonistic ways despite her terminal illness, Maud’s callous message to the man upstairs is, “I dare say you’ll be seeing this one soon”. She soon warms to Amanda, however, when she gets it into her head that her mission from on high is to save this sinner’s soul.
Maud is essentially Taxi Driver’s Travis Bickle with a Welsh accent. As in Scorsese’s film, Maud’s saviour complex emanates from feelings of intense self-loathing. There are shades of Polanski's Rosemary's Baby too in the subjective filmmaking style and in the claustrophobic atmosphere Glass creates in Amanda’s grand home.
It’s often hard to tell if what’s going on onscreen is real or all in Maud’s head. When Amanda gifts her nurse a glossy book of William Blake art, the baroque imagery of his paintings seem to seep on to the screen. Soon Maud is seeing signs from God everywhere, from the whirling of the clouds on an overcast day to the swirling of dissolving paracetamol in a glass of water (another nod to Taxi Driver). This subjective nightmare will surely end up being among the great debuts of the year.
Released 9 Oct by StudioCanal; certificate 15