Martha Marcy May Marlene is a beautifully shot indie flick. But it is so much more than that. The title alone creates intrigue and mystery, and by the end of the film, we are still left feeling curious. Full of shots which draw the audience in and leave us wondering what she sees, and if what she sees is really what’s in front of her, this is a film that requires an open and sympathetic mind.
The film depicts two narratives simultaneously, following Marcy May as part of the ‘family’ of a strange and unexplained cult, and then Martha, the girl who made her escape and struggles to deal with her past.
Elizabeth Olsen is brilliant: as one of the Olsen clan I initially withheld hope for a great performance, but she is stunning in this role. Such a challenging character, at once seeking sympathy from the audience whilst pushing us away with her violent outbursts, she embodies the notion of teenage angst and confusion.
The supporting cast, including John Hawkes and Maria Dizzia create the two families between which Martha must choose. Hawkes has amazing physicality and presence as a character who terrifies the women in the film as well as unsettling those in the audience. His skinny, lanky frame somehow aptly conveys the creepy, mind controlling leader of a cult, and his song for Marcy May, performed in front of the cult family is chilling.
Maria Dizzia is also fantastic, conveying beautifully the tragedy and disappointment she feels about her sister’s situation, as she struggles to sympathise or even begin to understand Martha’s estrangement and unconventional behaviour.
The final sequence of the film perfectly concludes this unsettling adventure into Martha’s psyche, putting the audience once more in her position, leaving us paranoid and uneasy. This film deserves critical acclaim and is a must see.