DVD & Movie Review of Martha Marcy May Marlene

by on February 6, 2012

in Entertainment, movie reviews

This is a DVD & movie review of the 2011 movie, Martha Marcy May Marlene.

Martha Marcy May Marlene movie poster

Martha Marcy May Marlene comes from Fox Searchlight Pictures and runs 102 minutes, and is rated R, and yes, it’s a heck of a title to try and remember!

It’s written and directed by Sean Dunkin (Afterschool) and stars Elizabeth Olsen (Silent House) as Martha, Sarah Paulson (The Spirit, Joss Whedon’s Serenity; on TV: Deadwood) as Martha’s sister, Lucy; Hugh Dancy (Confessions of a Shopaholic, Our Idiot Brother) as Lucy’s significant other, Ted & John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone; Eastbound & Down (TV series)) as cult leader Patrick.

Martha Marcy May Marlene is a surprisingly dark and captivating drama that focuses on a young girl named Martha (Olsen), who escapes from a cult and goes to live with her sister, Lucy (Paulson) and husband Ted (Dancy). The trailers I’ve seen don’t quite do this dramatic piece justice, while the movie oozes this quiet, low-key tone of desperation for Martha.

We watch Martha slink away from the cult compound and calls her sister to come and get her. We experience Martha’s attempt at trying to figure things out now that she’s in the wild of life. But it’s not all roses. Martha has issues and a certain emotional distance from reality that can interfere with her day-to-day life with her family. And despite the fact that Martha has escaped, you get the feeling she hasn’t totally escaped yet.

Sarah Paulson and Elizabeth Olsen in Martha Marcy May Marlene

I have to be honest with you, this was a hard movie for me to write up. It was lacking the usual flair of giant robots, explosions and Earth shattering ramifications. Yet there I was, soaking it all in, and starting to panic as to what I’ll say.

Elizabeth Olsen does a great job delivering a wide-eyed, confused young girl who has no plans for life except to deal with what is presented to her from day to day.

John Hawkes in Martha Marcy May Marlene

Hawkes portrayal of Patrick, the cult leader, is as smooth as he is sinister. Sublime is another word that comes to mind, as we watch Patrick lead his willing disciples in keeping the compound running, having relations with the “lucky” ones, and perpetrating various crimes around the region of the cult compound.

Overall, the presentation of the story gives it all the more grip on your imagination as you follow the story.


The one aspect of the movie that I can’t come to terms with is the ending. As the movie is nearing its close, there’s an interesting set of events that could bode ill for Martha, but we never see if that comes to fruition or not, as the movie ends in what feels like mid-moment… with some hints at something we encountered earlier, that the viewer might be worried about… or are they?

For a movie that plays to my weakness of interpreting dramatic stories, I was compelled to follow it through to the end and challenged to explain it. For those of you looking for an excellent, dark, dramatic movie experience, I think you will enjoy this movie.

One of the extras on the DVD was an interesting, curious and quiet short as a cult member is driving a new recruit to the compound. It’s quietly insidious.

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