Martha Marcy May Marlene

Release Date 03 Feb 2012 TBA

  • User rating
  • Currently 3/5 Stars.
  • Critic rating
  • Currently 3/5 Stars.

  75% of raters want to see this movie

Certificate: 16

Genre: Drama

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

Elizabeth Olsen | Sarah Paulson | John Hawkes

T. Sean Durkin


T. Sean Durkin

  • Critic rating
  • Currently 3/5 Stars. Critic Review


Directed by Drake Doremus. Starring Elizabeth Olsen, John Hawke, Sarah Paulson, Hugh Dancy, Brady Corbet, Christopher Abbot.

THE PLOT: Arriving on the doorstep of her older sister Lucy (Paulson) and the latter’s husband, Ted (Dancy), Martha (Olsen) has been AWOL for two years. In flashback, we see Martha joined a cult, living on a remote farm and being sweetly brainwashed by the guitar-playing, dungaree-wearing leader Patrick (Hawkes). But this is no Kamp Krusty, despite the crappy conditions; as with so many cults, sex and violence is just below all the happy-clappy, and it has left Martha a highly distrustful person. One who is incapable of revealing to her sister and her brother-in-law what she has been through. As Martha’s paranoia builds, she starts noticing strangers hanging around her sister’s lakeside holiday home. And so, naturally, she’s goes a little Greystoke on them…

THE VERDICT: A title like Martha Marcy May Marlene has its own built-in hall of mirrors, reflecting the schizophrenia and paranoia that Olsen’s cult escapee is going through. The purpose of most cults, of course, is to take damaged people and then break them. Completely. And when it comes to hippie communes, it’s not all about the free love; it’s all about the free sex. Olsen – who looks like Maggie Gyllenhaal on a healthy diet – gives it her all in the title role, and this bleak film – a big hit at Sundance last year – has meant her future certainly looks bright. A dark, twisted film, it gradually got under my skin, like a bad itch. Then again, maybe that was the intention. RATING: 3

Review by Paul Byrne 

  • Avg User rating
  • Currently 3/5 Stars.

User Reviews

    • Currently 4/5 Stars.


    While very heavy and difficult to watch at time, this is a very compelling drama. Two stories interwine with one told in flashback but both stories are tough going as the story looks at how one woman must deal with both her past and present. Has a wonderful ending that leaves you to interpret the next stage of her life. Very good stuff.

    • Currently 2/5 Stars.


    It's a brave and engrossing performance from Olsen. Sadly outside of that, the film fails to deliver a satisfying climax.

    • Currently 3/5 Stars.


    This film has both the strengths and weaknesses of the psychological thriller genre. Mental states are hard to depict. The strength of the genre is that it serves as a showcase for actors. It is a mixed bag, but it does deliver a heavy dose of creepiness

    • Currently 4/5 Stars.


    Moving out of the shadows of her older twin sisters, Elizabeth Olsen makes a commanding screen debut with the trickily-titled Martha Marcy May Marlene. She plays an impressionable young woman seduced by a commune-like cult with sinister motives (told in occasional flashbacks). Having escaped from the commune, she tries to come to terms with what's happened as she stays with her sister. Her behaviour becomes increasingly erratic, as we see how damaged her mind has become. For the most part, this is a gripping and often haunting film about the fall of innocence into sin and misdirection. Olsen really is startling, in yet another worthy performance that was overlooked in the recent Oscar nominations. She's also ably supported by reliable character actor John Hawkes, as the forceful cult leader. This is one film that will stay with you long after the credits roll and is easily one of the year's best films. Highly recommended.