Martha Marcy May Marlene

Viewed – 25 July 2012  DVD

Cults, religious or not are always a fascinating subject, dating back to real life incidents like The Manson Family or Waco, and is something that can’t easily be understood, as the psychological turmoil on those involved can be a very difficult thing to heal.  This follows the story of one such girl who chooses to leave the abusive cult she’s been living in for the past 2 years, and return to her sister and brother-in-law, who soon discover she’s not the girl they once knew.

Elizabeth Olson, younger sibling of famed reality TV twins Ashley and Mary-Kate, stars as Martha who through circumstances that aren’t explained, begins living with a rural cult, or ‘family’ headed by Patrick, an at first kind and loving man, who also happens to sleep with every girl who joins the family as a sort of ‘cleansing’ ritual … yeah, right.  It also turns out the ‘family’ have more than a few screws loose with a love of group sex, home invasion and using firearms.  Martha’s sister however is left in the dark, believing Martha’s disappearance to all be down to a bad relationship.  This was an interesting take on an old idea, jumping between the main character’s difficulty adjusting to normal life and the troubling memories of her time in the cult, the movie often blurring the lines between dreams and reality.  This offered a convincing account of Martha’s damaged mind, which I thought was very well done, even if such an approach left a lot of questions unanswered, like why does she join the cult, and how come she doesn’t run away screaming after her ‘cleansing’?  But the same could be said for many real life cult members, I suppose.

Elizabeth Olson marks herself out as a name to look out for however with a strong central performance, and support, especially from Sarah Paulson as her sister, and John Hawkes as Patrick are both of a high quality.  Yet ultimately this movie left me frustrated, as I wanted to know more, I wanted some sort of satisfying conclusion, and this offered neither – a shame, because otherwise this was a decent night’s viewing.

Verdict:  3 /5

1 thought on “Martha Marcy May Marlene

  1. It does leave you with questions and like you I wanted to know more. It’s an excellent movie with a stunning performance by Olsen. I thought the editing of it was really great, made me feel how messed up her thinking was because of the cult.


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