Martha Marcy May Marlene

Why the long face? Well, it turns out that Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) is running away from an isolated cult commune ‘family’ where she has spent two years and which far from being the hippy bohemia you might expect is an abusive, nonsense talking, self obsessed, xenophobic, scummy criminal community. She runs into the hands of her comfortably-well-off sister and her new husband who take her in with with their middle-class standards of normality which Martha finds it difficult to fit in with, the weight of ‘being normal’ expectation being nearly as oppressive as the paranoia of being persued and reconsumed into the commune.

It’s shot in soft-focus, washed-out pastel shades, the sound is muted and the images drift backwards and forwards in time with no cuts, simulating the confusion and catatonic state of Martha’s mind. This would make a great aspect of a film, but as the only strand in a rather bland and featureless narrative it needs contrasting really.

Perhaps it’s me being a cold, soulless individual, desensitised to anything other than the most harrowing of situations (although perhaps that’s not the case when you learn that I cried during ‘Along Came Polly’!) but I really didn’t find this a tense or unsettling experience. Some of the acts repulsed and angered me, but it was really only the closing shot (which was excellent) that had me uncomfortable and aware of the time and effort required to get Martha to a safe place in her head.

2 on 5

Nice poster though!

Director – Sean Durkin
Starring – Elizabeth Olsen, John Hawkes, Sarah Paulson, Hugh Dancy
UK Release – 3rd February 2012


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