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Morfydd Clark stars in Rose Glass's Saint Maud.Courtesy of A24 Films/The Associated Press

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  • Saint Maud
  • Written and directed by Rose Glass
  • Starring Morfydd Clark, Jennifer Ehle and Lily Knight
  • Classification R; 84 minutes
Critic’s Pick

The young hospice nurse Maud (Morfydd Clark) is an angel. She is careful. She is quiet. She is dedicated to helping those who cannot help themselves, such as the terminal former dancer (Jennifer Ehle) who is under her care in a small unnamed English seaside town. But Maud is also a servant of God, and her piousness is so intense, so overwhelming, that she might just murder anyone who gets in the way of her faithful fervor.

This is the basic outline of Rose Glass’s feature directorial debut Saint Maud, a deeply dark and frequently painful-to-watch horror movie that has one thing on its mind – how the road to fanaticism leads directly to hell – and is intent on making that truth as ugly and squirm-inducing as possible.

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Clark is also a wonder as the title character, playing a deluded and dangerous antihero with an unnerving zealAngus Young/A24 Films via AP

When I first caught Glass’s film back during the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival, it didn’t provoke with incendiary intensity so much as poke and prod with a mild annoyance. (Although one audience member memorably lost their dang mind during one brutal scene of self-abuse.) But since then, I’ve come around to Glass’s singular, purpose-filled vision – one that is intent on pushing its audience so far outside their comfort zones that you’d need a map to find your way back to baseline existence.

Clark is also a wonder as the title character, playing a deluded and dangerous antihero with an unnerving zeal. And Glass’s fiery payoff? It injects just the right dose of sear-your-brain nastiness. Who knows, maybe one day everyone will be able to experience it in a packed theatre, too. Let us pray.

Saint Maud is available on-demand, including Apple TV/iTunes and the Google Play Store, starting Feb. 12

In the interest of consistency in critics’ reviews across artistic mediums, The Globe has eliminated its star-rating system in film and theatre to align with coverage of music, books, visual arts, and dance. Instead, works of excellence will be noted with a critic’s pick designation across all coverage. (Television reviews, typically based on an incomplete season, are exempt.)

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