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Martha Marcy May Marlene 2011


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(48) IMDb 7/10

Haunted by painful memories and increasing paranoia, a damaged woman struggles to re-assimilate with her family after fleeing an abusive cult.

Sarah Paulson, Louisa Krause
Rental Formats:

Product Details

  • Feature ages_15_and_over
Runtime 2 hours 0 minutes
Starring Sarah Paulson, Louisa Krause, Hugh Dancy, John Hawkes, Elizabeth Olsen, Brady Corbet
Director T. Sean Durkin
Genres Drama, Thriller
Studio 20th Century Fox
Rental release 25 June 2012
Main languages English

Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By haunted on 20 Mar. 2012
Format: DVD
It's hard to know what to make of this movie but having watched it I find myself thinking about it a lot, even if I'm just trying to make sense of it!

Elizabeth Olsen plays a young woman who escapes from a cult and goes to live with her sister and her husband in their idyllic country holiday home. However it is far from living happily ever after as the women clearly have serious issues in their relationship. We also see flashbacks of what life was like for Martha in the cult, which was led by a Charles Manson type figure. These show some startling practices that were treated as normal in the cult.

Martha has clearly been deeply traumatised by what she has experienced and demonstrates this with growing paranoia and mistrust. Her sister and brother in law struggle to cope with increasingly strange behaviour. The constant switching between time periods confuses the viewer so that we start to share in Martha's confusion about her identity (demonstrated by the title of the movie).

The movie moves slowly towards its conclusion with an increasing sense of menace as we see what the cult was capable of but be warned, the ending has no easy answers.

A lot of people will find this movie deeply unsatisfying and that is quite understandable as the director seems to go out of his way, at times, to confuse the viewer. The ending, in particular, is ambiguous. However it is very well made and has as its core a great performance from Olsen as the beautiful but psychologically damaged title character. Some scenes and lines will certainly stay with you for a while after seeing the movie.

Whether that is a good thing or not will be for you to judge!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Keith M TOP 500 REVIEWER on 6 Jan. 2015
Format: DVD
Young American 'indie’ producer/director/writer Sean Durkin made his big screen feature debut with this highly atmospheric, moody 2011 film (essentially) about a troubled girl’s search for identity (and reality) and whilst I did not find Martha Marcy May Marlene entirely successful, it still represents a highly promising start for Durkin. It’s not a film likely to appeal to everyone – slow-moving, blurring 'dreams’ and 'reality’ and cutting at will (arguably too often) between the two – but is nevertheless skilfully made, ambitious and well-acted, as well as making a number of wider points around social indoctrination and mental stability.

At the film’s centre is an outstandingly subtle and perceptive performance by newcomer Elizabeth Olsen as Martha, apparently just escaped from two years in a 'cult commune’ (during which she has been alternately named Marcy May and Marlene) and thrown back into the 'comfortable reality’ of domestic life with sister, Sarah Paulson’s Lucy and her (Brit) husband, Hugh Dancy’s Ted. At a time when 'youth coercion’ (religious, sexual, capitalist, etc) is particularly pertinent, Durkin does a good – largely subtle and dark – job of demonstrating how gullible adolescents could be attracted into a new 'family’ and (particularly during the film’s first hour or so) makes some powerful and perceptive points around identity, social norms, alienation, trust, community and sibling relationships. The seamless (and deliberately confusing) cutting between Martha’s two worlds is generally very effective, as is the depiction of her increasing paranoia and the growing tension between her and Lucy/Ted (as a result of Martha’s increasingly eccentric, and seemingly irresponsible, behaviour).
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Antenna TOP 100 REVIEWER on 4 April 2012
Format: DVD
The combination of names "Martha", "Marcy May" and "Marlene" reflects the "different faces" and mental confusion of Martha, a young woman who has drifted into life in a cultish commune in the remote Catskill Mountains. Will we ever learn how or why? The film begins with her escape from the community to take refuge with her conventionally middle-class, materialistic sister and her new husband.

The film is unusual in cutting continually back and forth between her life with her sister, in which Martha becomes increasingly more withdrawn and disturbed, and the two years spent in the commune, under the influence of the charismatic but at times menacing, possibly psychotic Patrick, who reminded me of tales of Charles Manson. You need to concentrate hard, not only because of the fragmented storyline, but also owing to the "naturalistic" filming technique, in which people often mumble as in real life, take part in normal, mundane activities and drift across the hand-held lens, perhaps appearing fleetingly at one edge of the screen. Occasional acts of violence erupt suddenly. At times, it has something of the "amateurish" visual quality of "The Blair Witch Project". Much is implied and little specifically stated.

Martha's problems of adapting to "normal life" are portrayed well, together with her relatives' predictable reaction, as when she bathes naked in the lake because that was what she did at the commune. The clash in their values is made clear. One's perception of the commune gradually darkens. At first, it just seems a throwback to pre-female equality days, as we see the women waiting to eat after the men, or the former selecting clothes off a communal rack.
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