Martha Marcy May Marlene

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Martha Marcy May Marlene

Sean Durkin (2011)

15 Certificate


Our Score
Questions of identity, love and loyalty are at the heart of writer/director Sean Durkin's haunting mystery drama. Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) contacts older sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) out of the blue and comes to stay with her and posh British husband (Hugh Dancy) in their luxury lake house, but seems strangely unable to cope with normal life. That's because she has just escaped after two years with a cult, where charismatic leader John Hawkes named her Marcy May. But will he let her go that easily? Durkin cuts frequently between the two timeframes, using different visuals to juxtapose the hazy, slow-paced cult life with Lucy's wealthy but austere world. Olsen is simply mesmerising, perfectly capturing the brainwashed Martha's disorientation and conflicting emotions: equal parts needy and hostile, she's desperate for love, but unsure whether she's deserving of it. The rest of the cast is equally impressive, in particular Hawkes as the manipulative, Svengali-like cult leader. Durkin's intelligent, hypnotic and compelling film echoes Martha's fractured mental state, so as the events of the past are slowly revealed, we're never sure whether they are real or imagined. But they are certainly sinister and unsettling, and will linger long in the mind.


A woman is subjected to abuse while a member of a cult, but manages to escape and seeks refuge with her sister. She finds it difficult to make a fresh start as she is consumed with paranoia. Traumatic memories keep flooding back, and she finds it hard to tell the difference between reality and her nightmares. Thriller, starring Elizabeth Olsen, Sarah Paulson and John Hawkes.

Cast & Crew

Martha Elizabeth Olsen
Lucy Sarah Paulson
Ted Hugh Dancy
Patrick John Hawkes
Watts Brady Corbet
Katie Maria Dizzia
Zoe Louisa Krause
Sarah Julia Garner
Max Christopher Abbott
Director Sean Durkin
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Other Information

Language: EnglishColourTheatrical distributor: 20th Century FoxGuidance: Swearing, sex scenes. Available on: DVD and Blu-rayReleased on: 3 Feb 2012