Martha Marcy May Marlene

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


Writers:  Sean Durkin
Director:  Sean Durkin
Stars:   Elizabeth Olsen, Sarah Paulson and John Hawkes
Runtime: 102 Minutes
Popcorn Score: Medium Popcorn with Butter

The opposite of Love is not Hate, Its Indifference.  I believe that to be true because both love and hate are filled with passion.  I have seen many movies I feel indifferent about, many I have loved, I hated Martha Marcy May Marlene.  It was so incredibly unsettling, unsatisfying, disheartening, demoralizing, it was a pit of depression for an hour and forty minutes.  I feel this way because it was so fantastic, well written, directed, acted, and shot… it made me sick. It defiantly did not make me feel indifferent.

In only the first minutes of the movie we watch Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) fleeing an abusive Farm commune cult.  I was surprised at first, knowing that it was a “cult” movie, that we were already leaving the cult.  This is an intentional move by new Writer/ Director Sean Durkin, because although we are masterfully transported back and forth from present day, to Martha’s life on the farm throughout the film, this is a movie about the struggles that one would face after leaving a psychologically and physically abusive cult.

Shortly after escaping away through the woods, Martha calls her sister (Sarah Paulson), the only family that she has left and cries through the receiver, still uncertain whether she should return to the farm or not.  She finally allows her sister to come and pick her up.  As Martha is made to feel at home at the luxurious lake cabin of her sister and her brother in law (Hugh Dancy), it is obvious that she will not be able to adapt to a “normal” life.

The approach to which the movie slides back and forth from the present day to the time in the farm cult mirror the thoughts in Martha’s mind and takes the audience into her confusion leaving them feeling uneasy and infected throughout the entire length of the film.  This is done spectacularly in one scene change of the movie with the longest, eeriest, fade to black and back that I have ever seen in a movie.

Life on the farm is shown as a place where cult leader, played unexpectedly charming and charismatically by academy award nominee John Hawks (Winters Bone), manipulates young girls through controlling everything from their day to day lives to their thoughts.  He speaks down to them as if he always knows what’s best but does so in a reassuring way so that they trust him and stay in his control.  The character is creepy, and disturbing, I wanted nothing more for one of the girls to stand up to him, tell him off and kill him!

Martha Marcy May Marlene is a very sorrowful night out at the movies.  I wouldn’t recommend it if you are in a bad mood, and definitely not if you are looking for something light hearted!  It is however very well done, has some stand out/Oscar worthy performances, and tells a new story that is extremely powerful.  I am torn on my opinions of this movie because as I stated it is incredibly well done and executed with such a strong story but I am just not sure if it was one that I wanted to see.

Medium Popcorn with Butter.

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