Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011) Review

Martha is a damaged young woman who is struggling to process the abuse she suffered living in a cult for many years, on managing to escape from it she is living with her sister Lucy and her new husband Ted. Not telling them anything about where she had been or what had actually happened to her, she begins to get more and more paranoid as we are shown the painful memories as flashbacks.


The story is told in a very good way as the opening scene we see Martha looking rather distressed along with a young man who tries to convince her to “come back” but that is not what she wants at all. She manages to make a phone call to Lucy who picks her up. Even though she had no idea where she actually was, I mean that alone is terrifying and and helps to highlight the difficult situation that she was in.

As she is then back in a more normal place the memories and nightmares of what happened to her within the sadistic cult are shown back to us viewers and this really was a good manner to help tell the story. Different triggers to events that were not nice at all, as Martha must try to be “normal” the scene where she strips fully naked to swim really helps to show that she is not thinking about the setting and situation. Something that causes Lucy to be very concerned.

Ted is just completely creeped out by Martha’s behaviour and really does struggle to show any sympathy at all, not that Lucy really manages to either but considering neither of them are ever told where she had been and what happened to her it was perfectly acceptable really for the way they reacted to her. The fact she had been held in a cult was not something that would ever have been able to guess.

Patrick the main leader at the cult was not a nice man at all and I have to admit that rape scene shocked me quite a lot really. As Martha was shown being woken to Patrick raping her, something that he believed he got to do to anyone who joined the “family” that was something else that made it even more messed up, calling how they were together as a family when it was far from that.

The only thing about the film though was that it probably should have delved deeper into the cult and everything that was happening to the young woman being taken into it and how Martha could have been on a recovery. Elizabeth Olsen’s performance was easily the best thing about the film and she had some amazing scenes which really helped to highlight her outstanding acting ability. She shared a couple of scenes with Sarah Paulson and that is something that should have been given in more screen time between the pair. Hugh Dancy and John Hawkes both in supporting roles had a couple of impressive scenes. On the whole though the film was just lacking a real spark to make it very good.

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