¨There's no such thing as dead or alive; we just exist. ¨
Sean Durkin and Elizabeth Olsen have two things in common; first of all most of us probably never heard of them before Martha Marcy May Marlene was released, and second now they will be on everyone`s radar as to what they will be doing next. First time director and screenwriter, Sean Durkin, directs a terrific and dark psychological thriller that has many parallels and similarities with the Charles Manson cult. The film might be considered as slow paced for some people, but I was haunted with the story and premise throughout the entire 100 minutes and was completely enamored with the film. I absolutely loved every second of the movie, I loved the editing and how the film went back and forth so naturally playing with the main character`s delusions and fears. Elizabeth Olsen, the youngest sister of the famous Olsen twins, is just breathtaking in this film and gives one of the best leading performances of the year. She was spectacular and truly became the haunted and troubled character that was Martha. The name of the film which many people hated, but I loved, had to do with the different names by which Martha was known during the movie. Beside the excellent direction from Durkin, the great performance from Olsen, and the excellent editing, the film also counts with terrific secondary performances. John Hawkes is really good as the leader of the sort of cult which Olsen becomes a member of and later tries to escape from. He has a quiet role, but he shows true leadership qualities and you can see how these troubled people might have been fooled into wanting to belong to this family.
The film begins with a scene where we see Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) fleeing from a sort of cult and calling her sister to come pick her up after disappearing for nearly two years and having no contact whatsoever with her family. Her sister, Lucy (Sarah Paulson), comes to the rescue as soon as she can and is glad to be reunited with her missing sister. Lucy takes Martha to her vacation house where she is staying with her husband, Ted (Hugh Dancy), and they soon begin to realize that Lucy has been through some sort of psychological and physical abuse during these years, but all Lucy tells them is that she was with a boyfriend who had lied to her and that is why she has left him. She tells them nothing about the cult or the ¨family¨ with whom she was living and keeps mostly to herself, although her strange behavior gives her away at times. During these scenes in which Martha is with her sister we see a series of flashbacks as to what she was up to during these past two years. The movie jumps back in forth between these scenes as Martha tries to adapt to normal society life and deal with the paranoia and fear that she is being hunted by the sect that she has just fled. We see the first time that Martha is presented to the leader of the ¨¨family¨, Patrick (John Hawkes), who sees a lot of potential in her and calls her Marcy May. The rest of the members of the cult greet her and teach her the ways of the family. They all have different roles in the house, but they sort of all live a sort of hippy lifestyle. The movie jumps back and forth between Martha`s memories of the cult and her adaptation process while living with her sister.
Perhaps one of the greatest things about Martha Marcy May Marlene (beside the great performances from Elizabeth Olsen and John Hawkes) is the way in which the film is edited and jumps perfectly between the present and the memories of the past. At some points even I was fooled as to we were watching Martha or Marcy May. The film successfully jumps back and forth and it kept my interest throughout the entire time. I loved this film, its pace, and everything about it: the dark psychological aspect and the delusions Martha suffered which we couldn’t really tell if they were real or not. Many people also hated the ending, but I loved it. Martha Marcy May Marlene is one of the movies that keep you thinking about it long after it’s over. It really had a great effect on me and it reminded me once again why I love going to the movies despite it not being about a subject matter I really cared for. This is truly a remarkable movie and among the year`s best, although I admit it probably will divide audiences because it isn`t a commercial movie. Elizabeth Olsen deserved a nomination for her performance, but I`m used to expecting the Oscars to ignore performances like this one. I really recommend this movie.