Friday, October 28, 2011


Directed by: Sean Durkin
Written by: Sean Durkin
Starring: Elizabeth Olsen, John Hawkes, Sarah Paulson, and Hugh Dancy
Synopsis: A young woman escapes from a cult and tries to regain her old life.

MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE is a haunting tale of a fractured life and lost identity. The story weaves between the past and the present all the while questioning what was real and what was just a dream. It explores the aftermath of a woman, Martha (Olsen), who has left her cult-like commune after a couple years as she tries to reintegrate herself back to "normal" life with her sister (Paulson) and her sister's new husband (Dancy). As Martha tries to integrate herself back to her old life, the story interjects with flashes of memories from her time at the commune.

Martha hasn't been in contact with her sister in two years. She was living in a hippie-esque commune of young adults where everyone finds their own role within the family, shares clothing, and the women eat after the men have finished their meal.  Their enigmatic leader, Patrick (played phenomenally by Hawkes), preaches about letting go of past pain and finding their full potential as a human being. All Martha has to do is let them in. Martha's journey to integrate into the commune life and her old life is blended together on screen where, just like Martha, sometimes we can't tell where one story begins or ends. The brilliance of Durkin's screenplay is showing us just glimpses of her past; enough to piece some parts together, but never gives us complete answers.  Thus, we are left with our own projections and to fill in some of the gaps. Even though she made the decision to leave her "family", Martha cannot tell her sister about the commune.  Maybe she's ashamed, or maybe she's has culture shock. As she tries to regain her world, the mood becomes more and more tense as she believes her former family will find her.

Elizabeth Olsen is absolutely mesmerizing as Martha. She brings a somber yet stoic edge to her character. Martha has lived a lot of life over the past few years from turning to a cult to feel complete, gaining the courage to leave, and trying to move on. Olsen subtle performance juxtaposed with the ever increasing tension was flawless. She treads the line of insanity and desperation, and she is just wonderful.

In the era of slasher films and things that go bump in the night cheap trills, MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE is a genuine psychological thriller that has frightened me more than any other movie this year. First time director and writer, Durkin, has made a name for himself with this film.

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