Sean Durkin, Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2011. Starring Elizabeth Olsen, Sarah Paulson, Hugh Dancy and John Hawkes.
Genre: Drama, Thriller.
Question: What happens to you if you were abandoned as a child, end up not having a proper upbringing, and in search of wanting someone to love you and take care of you? That's easy - you're vulnerable and easy prey for those who like to manipulate and control others. Martha Marcy May Marlene explores one woman's experience in a manipulative and abusive cult-like "family" after she escapes and tries to have a real family member help her.
Martha Marcy May Marlene is not an easy movie to watch/experience, that is not to say it is a bad movie - quite the contrary. However, there were scenes that were hard to watch especially when the manipulation and abuse are depicted on screen. It is a poignant film that displays pure, raw emotions. Most of the credit should go to the lead actress: Elizabeth Olsen. She was spectacular!
I was blown-away by her skill to draw you into her mental decline as she recalled the good, the bad and the horror of her past with the group. Her eyes and facial expressions during certain moments of silence were just as powerful at displaying the intensity of the moment as compared to when she is being physically violated or having a full blown paranoia attack. All these scenes leave you drained.
This is a slow film but a thought-provoking piece that will leave you wondering if characters or story-lines were real or imaginary. As I was watching this film, which I enjoyed, I kept recalling another movie I saw nearly a decade ago: Swimming Pool. It had the same feel as that drama/thriller.
A couple other actors should have a mention or two. Hugh Dancy, who usually plays the sweet, British male lead character in his films definitely played against type. It was refreshing. I almost didn't recognize him because of it. Another actor whose name you won't recognize, John Hawkes, but you should recall his face, played the leader of the cult. His portrayal was seductive, charming and scarily real - you could almost feel why someone girls would allow him to control them. Shivers. He should receive some sort of decent acknowledgement for his performance.
I don't want to tell you any more about Martha Marcy May Marlene - like why it is called that or any other details of the plot because it is a thriller except to say I really enjoyed the cinematography in this film. There were extreme close-ups, that were almost disconcerting, when two people were conversing, but I understood what the filmmakers were trying to communicate. I am not going to tell you what I think - nope. This film asks questions and lets you answer them which is my favorite kind of story. I so enjoy when something isn't shoved down my throat and I am allowed to come up with my own conclusions.
One last part that I have to share: the editing and the dialogue. It was simply brilliant. The story goes back and forth from her present day to flashbacks of when she was with the cult. The editor chose perfect aspects of editing to make you wonder if it was a dream or if it was real in order to let your emotions sink you in deeper into the tale. Also, there was some profound dialogue that left me almost breathless. That is all I am going to say about that.
As you may have figured out, Martha Marcy May Marlene may not be a film for everyone; but if you enjoy good storytelling that is off-beat and filled with meandering emotions then this one is for you.
My favorite part: Having a film that lets it's audience think for themselves.
My least favorite: The abuse portrayed in this film.
Length: 102 minutes
Review: 7 out of 10
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