Saturday, November 12, 2011

Martha Marcy May Marlene

A star turn by Elizabeth Olsen in a fascinating story of a girl, who after living in a cult environment for two years, tries to reconnect with the outside world. Written and directed by Sean Durkin, his first feature film is both disturbing and captivating.

We first meet Martha as she is leaving the cult for unknown reasons. She reaches out to her sister Lucy, played by Sarah Paulson who brings Martha to her Connecticut home, with no knowledge of where's she's been. Lucy and her husband Ted, played by Hugh Dancy, try to be understanding but are confused by Martha's behavior especially when she refuses to tell them the truth about her recent past.

The film cuts back and forth in time, between the present in Connecticut and Martha's time with the cult, when she was renamed Marcy May by Patrick, the cult leader. John Hawkes is chilling as Patrick, a man with an evil aura hidden beneath a seemingly gentle exterior. The edits and unusual score create a dream like atmosphere that deliberately unsettles the audience.

Adjusting to life after her experience is not easy for Martha and as layers are peeled back, you realize there will be no simple answers. You are left to interpret these characters as you will. The end, in particular, will be open to much discussion. Love it or hate it, one thing is clear. Elizabeth Olsen has a terrific career ahead of her.

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