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.

About

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.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Sarah Paulson, John Hawkes

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

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4 Silver Linings Playbook

    Silver Linings Playbook

    Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in this Oscar-winning romantic dramedy that deals with the implications of a relationship forming in the midst of mental illness

  • Film4 The Wackiest Ship In The Army

    The Wackiest Ship In The Army

    Jack Lemmon stars as a Lieutenant tricked into taking command of a ship full of misfits, tasked with a top secret mission to save hundreds of allied lives

    On Film4: 29 Apr 4:45PM

  • Film4 Silver Linings Playbook

    Silver Linings Playbook on Film4

    Jennifer Lawrence gives an Oscar-winning performance opposite Bradley Cooper in David O. Russell's superior romantic comedy.

  • Film4 The Pact

    The Pact on Film4

    When Annie's sister disappears while organising their mother's funeral in their childhood home, she investigates as an unwelcome presence in the house begins to be felt

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Mike Leigh announces new film, Peterloo

    Mike Leigh's next project will look at Peterloo - the infamous 1819 massacre by government forces at a peaceful pro-democracy rally at St Peter's Field in Manchester, when 700 working people were inju

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Four Film4-backed films selected In Competition at Cannes 2015

    Four Film4-backed films ¿ Todd Haynes¿ Carol, Yorgos Lanthimos' The Lobster, Paolo Sorrentino¿s Youth and Justin Kurzel¿s Macbeth ¿ have been invited into official selection at this year¿s Cannes film

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

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

or Register

Share