Sean Durkin offers up a strong, sophisticated debut feature film, proving talent as both Director and Writer of psychological thriller ‘Martha Marcy May Marlene’. Elizabeth Olsen approaches the titled role with measured restraint, subtle inner torment which results in a poignant performance expected from a more seasoned actress. Martha Marcy May Marlene follows a young woman who despite managing to escape from a manipulative, close knit, male oriented communal, struggles to assess the true impact of her time there and coming to terms with her older sister’s more modern and materialistic life.
Her flashbacks are beautifully and poetically delivered to us through sound before shot and vice versa making us as viewers feel as confused and detached from her new surroundings as she is. Sometimes questioning if it ever happened, whether she is dreaming, or simply recalling a genuine memory. Throughout the film both sound-scape and cinematography remain subtle but fractured, never overwhelming us with music video like close ups or unnecessary music, therefore successfully conveying her numbness. The writing is deliciously unsettling. No nice neatly wrapped up happy ending, but abrupt and brutal. We are not given any major clues as to why Martha and Lucy appear to have a shattered sisterly relationship or if this has contributed to her wanting a family which for worse she finds in the catskills cult.
There are no answers it’s left up to audiences to decide. Memorable moments such as Martha being asked not to swim naked in a empty lake because it’s wrong, she also asks her sister why she would need such a big house or holiday home. It becomes clear that she found some sense of peace, rest and tranquillity with the cult away from modern society and finds herself lost back in it. However the cult which it appears from her flashbacks resort to steal, kill, rape and focus on male needs doesn’t a better life make either. The most disturbing sequences aren’t from her initial first moments there, but what happens when she induces a new member and we see just how far into this lifestyle she has found herself swallowed.
Great performances from John Hawkes who is brilliant as always playing the creep, here he shines as the cult leader, Maria Dizzia is all menancing as the house authority female. Hugh Dancy And Sarah Paulson as the late 20 early 30 somethings, concerned with good red wine and renoventing city and holiday homes are equally believable rounding out a talented cast.
Von Von Lamunu