Martha Marcy May Marlene review

Sean Durkin
Elizabeth Olsen
Sarah Paulson
John Hawkes
Hugh Dancy
Rated: R

Wait a minute, you’re telling me that not only do the Olsen twins have a sister, but that she actually has acting talent?

Martha Marcy May Marlene follows a young woman who has just run away from what seemed to be her home. We immediately find out though that she was actually running away from a dangerous cult that she had been a part of for an extended period of time. Martha (Olsen), after getting away from the cult led by Patrick (Hawkes), calls her sister Lucy (Paulson) to pick her up and take her home.

After getting to Lucy’s house Martha starts trying to live a normal life again with her sister and her sister’s husband Ted (Dancy), however she finds it difficult to do so. Memories of what had gone on during her days being in the cult continue to cut deep into her head and leaves her in a paranoid state for the rest of the film as she continues to wonder if the cult will eventually find her.

The film is told through a series of flashbacks that are inserted over the regular course of the story, and it is done very well. As the movie goes along, the memories of the cult become more and more intense, and this goes hand-in-hand with the level of paranoia that Martha feels during the movie.

The film does have an ambiguous ending which may upset some people and understandably so. I’ve been angry with a few ambiguous endings here and there myself. Yet in my view, the ending to this film really works. The movie is about whether Martha’s increasing paranoia is justified or not, and the films gives a resolution to that story. Therefore I felt the ending to the film to be satisfying.

The acting is absolutely superb. Elizabeth Olsen performed very well giving, off the perfect atmosphere of a person with a troubled mind. Her level of paranoia and disability to return to a normal life is believable and gives the film great amounts of tension. John Hawkes is also fantastic as the cult leader Patrick, making for a truly chilling character. He is manipulative, and as the film goes on, down right scary.

Martha Marcy May Marlene does a lot of things right, however it is slow at some parts. That being said, it is for the most part, a great, memorable thriller with fantastic acting. Olsen’s performance is one of the best of the year for a female lead role and should get some Oscar attention. High 4 out of 5 for this one.

Author: Matthew Liedke

I'm a reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer in Minnesota, and I also have a passion for the art of film. This passion led me to start writing about film in 2008. From 2008-2016 I wrote pieces at my own website, After the Movie Reviews. Then, from 2016-May 2018, my write-ups were featured on AreaVoices, a blog network run by Forum Communications Company. Today, I write film reviews and other pieces here on Word Press. More about me: I'm a 2009 graduate of Rainy River College and a 2012 graduate of Minnesota State University in Moorhead. At MSU, I studied journalism and film. Outside of movies, I enjoy sports, video games, anime and craft beers.

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