Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • 15
  • Drama
  • 2011

Martha Marcy May Marlene

Film4 Martha Marcy May Marlene

Synopsis

Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) has returned home after a two year absence. As she remembers why, we see her recent life in an abusive self-sufficient community from which she hopes she has now escaped.

Critic's Review

The movie that will be remembered as the break-out performance of Elizabeth Olsen (sister to the currently better known Olsen twins) and also the arrival of director Sean Durkin as an exciting new talent, Martha Marcy May Marlene is nowhere near as twee or quirky as its indie singer-songwriter title would suggest.

Standing or falling, and in this case standing, by its lead performance, the film sticks close to Martha and her emotional journey. It's a journey that led her to reject conventional society and her family in favour of a backwoods commune, where she is re-named Marcy May by the vaguely Messianic leader Patrick (a highly effective performance from John Hawkes).

The film is at pains not to preach about cults or those who find themselves enmeshed in such dynamics; it's more of an exploration or impression of the emotional state of someone who has recently taken the decision to reject those dynamics. Lest this sound rather hazy or washed out, it's important to note the control Durkin maintains over his material: he knows where the film is going, respects its limits and polices the borders. What happens to Martha after the events of the film is not in scope; this is a fixed period in her life, brilliantly realised.

In a nutshell: Neither the thriller the trailer suggests, not the feminine, visual poem suggested by the poster, this is a film about loss of self that is absolutely clear about its own identity: a tightly-framed window overlooking the effect on one woman of renouncing the structures defining her life.

By Catherine Bray

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Sarah Paulson, John Hawkes

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4

    Baggage Claim

    Paula Patton stars in writer-director David E Talbert's romcom about a woman's desperate hunt to find herself a husband.

  • Film4

    Metallica: Through The Never

    Director Nimród Antal and cinematographer Gyula Pados blend fact and fiction as they capture an obscure live Metallica concert in North America.

    On Film4: 30 Apr 11:10PM

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Cannes 2016: 10 Picks

    Film4.com site editor and festival newbie Michael Leader selects ten films from the Official Selection at this year's Cannes Film Festival that he can't wait to see... Go easy on me, I'm new around t

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Cannes 2016: 10 picks

    Catherine Bray runs her eye over this year¿s line-up and selects ten films she can¿t wait to watch at the 69th Cannes Film Festival The official line-up is now locked and loaded, so time to have a ru

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register

Share