Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)

FILM REVIEW || Director/Writer Sean Durkin | Cinematographer Jody Lee Lipes | Starring Elizabeth Olsen, John Hawkes, Sarah Paulson, Hugh Dancy | Length 98 minutes | Seen at home (Blu-ray), London, Thursday 28 November 2013 || My Rating 4 stars excellent

© Fox Searchlight Pictures

I’ve left it a little too long since I saw this film to write an effective review, but if there’s anything I want to get across it’s how I really liked the way the atmosphere is handled by first-time director Sean Durkin. In fact, both the director and his lead actor, Elizabeth Olsen, are new to me and they certainly make their presence welcome. The film deals with rather fragile themes: a woman struggles away from a wilderness encampment to call her sister, and it slowly unfolds that she’d been inducted into a cult and must deal with years of conditioning that have removed certain inhibitions just as they’ve implanted paranoid suspicion. The title reinforces this in so far as Olsen is playing a young woman named Martha, who has been given the name Marcy May by the cult leader Patrick (John Hawkes), and who further subsumes her identity — as do all the female members of the cult — into that of ‘Marlene’ so far as the outside world is concerned.

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