Martha Marcy May Marlene

Martha Marcy May Marlene

Director: Sean Durkin

Martha Marcy May Marlene is not the full name of the young woman in this film – thank goodness. Her real name is Martha. Marcy May is the name given to her by Patrick, the leader of the cult she has been living with for the past two years. Having fled the cult community, disoriented and distressed, Martha is staying with her sister Lucy and sister’s husband Ted in their luxurious holiday residence.

Martha brings back with her into the “real world” many of the values and attitudes instilled in her during her time in the cult, and is unable to transition into outside life. While it is clear that she left for a reason, she has been brainwashed so successfully that she cannot shake her previous mindset, and is beleaguered with visions of Patrick and the extended cult “family”. We realise how badly affected and confused Martha really is when she crawls into bed with Lucy and Ted while they are having sex, thinking that this is entirely appropriate behaviour.

The big buzz surrounding this film has been created by lead actress Elizabeth Olsen, sister to Mary-Kate and Ashley. Appearing in this challenging role as her début performance, it is clear that the 22-year-old is destined for a more unconventional path than the “showbiz” career of her older sisters. Olsen’s compelling, natural performance is impressive and a strong hint that this girl is definitely one to keep an eye on. The film is beautifully shot with a soft focus – every still would make a great photo.

Martha Marcy May Marlene is a difficult film to watch, and I left feeling quite troubled as there is no real resolution or happy ending. Nevertheless, it is extremely well-crafted, captivating and quite beautiful, so definitely worth a trip to the cinema.

Sarah Baillie
This article first appeared in Issue 5, 2012.
Posted 4:26pm Sunday 25th March 2012 by Sarah Baillie .