You'd have thought, wouldn't you, that the best, most surprising, most thrilling British film of last year would tread lightly over the plodders on the Bafta Best Film longlist. Mank? Pfft. The Dig? No danger. The Trial of the Chicago 7? Not even close.
But no, Rose Glass's incendiary psychological horror-thriller Saint Maud – I'll say it again, the best film of 2020 – is apparently less good than 15 other films which are not Saint Maud. Which, frankly – seriously – I simply cannot accept.
That said, Saint Maud hasn't exactly been snubbed. Along with the similarly absolutely brilliant Rocks and the year's other impressive British horror debut His House, it's on the longlist for Outstanding British Film. Glass is up on the Best Director longlist, and it's up for Original Screenplay. Which is nice. But it's not Best Film, is it? That's where you'd really want the best film of 2020 (which is Saint Maud) to be.
Apart from anything else, in recent years Outstanding British Film has represented a squelchy middle ground between 'a good film' and 'good for a British film'. Fine films are nominated, and fine films win. But for some reason the films which you'd hope would get a little more sunlight for a nomination – like Bait or For Sama last year – just end up crushed by juggernauts which are up for Best Film too.
In the last three years, Outstanding British Film has been won by 1917, The Favourite and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri. They were big beasts that could look after themselves. Even having two separate awards creates weird logic traps: can you win Best Film but not Outstanding British Film? Exactly how British does an Outstanding Film have to be? Why lean towards British films for Best Film if you've got Outstanding British Film anyway? Is it lesser than Best Film? Greater than? Completely irrelevant to? A pat on the head during lean years for British cinema?
This year though felt like a time when an insurgent film could do something extraordinary in the Best Film category. I'm sad that Saint Maud, The Best Film Of 2020, didn't get the chance to do it.
Like this article? Sign up to our newsletter to get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox
You Might Also Like