Martha Marcy May Marlene
Directed by: Sean Durkin
Written by: Sean Durkin
Haunted by painful memories and increasing paranoia, a damaged woman struggles to re-assimilate with her family after fleeing an abusive cult.
Oh Martha Marcy May Marlene, how you will keep me awake at night. With a powerful and emotional tale about a woman who is taken in by a cult and when she escapes them, she can’t seem to forget them. The film cuts back and forth between Martha with her family and Marcy May (her new identity) during her time in the cult. It is so elegant the way they move from scene to scene as an action or dialogue that happens in one time zone is actually going on in the other. For a first time director and feature length writer it is really impressive, heck it’s really impressive either way.
As the story jumps back and forth you learn more about our heroine’s past and the experiences she had to face at the farm in the Catskills where the cult made camp. The cult family is set up beautifully with Patrick (John Hawkes) playing the father figure of the group, but even as he is this father figure to everyone by making everyone feel comfortable, safe, at home, he casts a great shadow over everyone. He comes across as a great evil that they learn to accept. Even after he rapes Martha, this is their initiation into the cult, he then sings a hauntingly beautiful song, featured in the trailer, where he serenades her by saying, “She’s just a picture, that’s all”. They focus in on her and Martha is framed as a picture for his connivence.
Martha was played by none other than Elizabeth Olsen. Who is this, you ask? She is the younger sister of the famous twins Mary Kate and Ashley. Well I would not be surprised if 22 year old Elizabeth became more famous that those twins in the very near future. She gives a tragically beautiful performance as a broken down girl who was brainwashed by the wrong people. When her and John Hawkes were on screen together it was just pure brilliance as they both were masterful in their respective roles.
With multiple unnerving scenes that send shivers down your spines the cult actions go from things that unnerve you because they are in a cult to actions that overstep the bounds of normal society. This all overlaps to when Martha has escaped the cult and is spending time with her family and all of these situations come into play making her sister’s life very difficult.
Martha Marcy May Marlene is a movie that I will have to see again because a lot went on and I feel I will understand the movie better during a second watch through. It had a very ambiguous ending which I liked but it would have been nice to have some sort of concreteness to it. It was very abrupt, and I have my speculations and theories but I will not share them as it will ruin the movie. Enjoy the film, enjoy having your specualtions and theories and enjoy the fantastic performances from John Hawkes and Elizabeth Olsen.
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