Martha Marcy May Marlene - Review




Directed by Sean Durkin

Starring Elizabeth Olsen, Hugh Dancy, John Hawkes

After fleeing an abusive cult, Martha struggles to readjust to the life she once knew while trying to reconnect with her family in this psychological drama.

What’s remarkable about this film is that the director’s vision is so pure and clear, it hasn’t been diluted by 200 different opinions. It's artsy and quiet. There are so many creative flourishes that are bold and set it apart from so much of the drivel we sit through. The film is structured with a mixture of flashbacks and present day sequences which link and flow into each other with undetectable slight of hand. What’s so brilliant about the flashback structure is the glorious confusion and tension in the opening scenes when we have no idea what Martha is fleeing and what has happened to her. There’s a Polanski level of ambiguity throughout and all the way up to the memorable ending. It’s unclear whether Martha’s paranoia is legitimate or if it’s all in her mind which makes the tension that bit worse because it doesn’t matter whether it’s real or not. Martha Marcy May Marlene is a study into cult life, post traumatic stress, memory, modern American life and family dynamics – but it doesn’t preach, it merely chronicles the events in a beautiful way.

Elizabeth Olsen plays Martha (and Marcy May and Marlene) with extraordinary restraint. The psychosis is constantly bubbling under the surface, always being held back so that when she finally does explode its all the more powerful. She has one of those enigmatic faces that doesn’t give anything away but reveals so much at the same time. She consistently plays that fine line between ‘she’ll be fine once she’s had time to settle in.’ and ‘get this poor woman help, she’s losing the plot.’  Perhaps there may be some deep seated acting talent in the Olsen Twins after all… But in all seriousness, Olsen carries this film with grace and refinement that is altogether missing in some actresses of her age.

Beautifully shot with all together nerve wracking performances, Martha Marcy May Marlene is a must-see recommendation.

Rating 8
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