Martha Marcy May Marlene
Written and Directed by Sean Durkin
Starring: Elizabeth Olsen, Sarah Paulsen, Hugh Dancy, John Hawkes

A few weeks ago, I read an article about how the dearth of young leading men in Hollywood spells trouble down the way for the plethora of talented young actress. Her is another name to add to that list of women as Elizabeth Olsen, at age 22, turns in a thrilling performance in her first film. Luckily this script did not require a love interest for Ms. Olsen.

PLOT: After some particularly disturbing activity, Martha (Olsen) flees the Manson-type cult where she has spent the last two years and calls her sister (Paulsen) to come and get here. Lucy is relieved to have found her sister and takes her home to the lake house where she and her new husband, Ted (Dancy) are temporarily living. They have no idea of what sort of life Martha has led, believing her only problem might be a bad breakup. Or at most an abusive boyfriend.

The movie intersects between Martha’s attempts to reconnect with normal life and what her life in the cult was like. There she was donned Marcy May by its charismatic leader, Patrick (Hawkes). She and her cult sisters were the hand-servants of the men in the cult and helped to lure new recruits.

Lucy and Ted only gradually come to understand how traumatized Martha is. And their affluent, narcissistic, lifestyle repulses Martha, adding to her trouble. The pre-cult history of Martha is only vaguely alluded to but it seems likely she was abandoned by her family in some fundamental way.

This is not a film for everyone. It meanders—and tell its story in its own hazy way, using visual techniques to mirror Martha’s fragile grasp of reality. But the acting is very good, especially Olsen and Hawkes, who manages to show you how seductive and dangerous he is in a soft whisper. Only as the film progresses do you understand just how treacherous he can be. And the ending is as scary as any horror movie you’ve seen.

Highly Recommended for Patient Film-goers