Who didn’t know that the Olsen twins had a little sister neither? Elizabeth Olsen, the most under-the-radar (and most talented) Olsen sibling makes her big debut in the critically-acclaimed indie film, Martha Marcy May Marlene. I finally got a chance to see Martha Marcy May Marlene last night, and was impressed with Olsen’s performance and the film itself.
The film doesn’t deal with light material. Elizabeth Olsen plays Martha, a young woman who gets caught up in a cult, led by Patrick (John Hawkes). She eventually escapes and moves in with her sister, Lucy (Sarah Paulson) and brother-in-law (Hugh Dancy). Lucy is concerned about Martha, since she had disappeared for two years, and it doesn’t help that Martha isn’t forthcoming about what she had been up to. Throughout the movie, we are given flashbacks of Martha’s time at the cult, and the mental and physical abuse she went through.
It’s not an easy film to watch. I can’t say that I outright enjoyed it. But it had an interesting story. I like how it transitioned between present-day and flashback. The transitions were so seamless that it took you a couple seconds longer to realize we were back to her time at the cult or vice versa. Those seamless transitions and the rich, dark earthy tones gave the film a dreamlike quality. Because of the nature of the story, it was nightmarish, and I started to feel the anxiety Martha felt.
Olsen is fantastic in this film. Martha was brainwashed, but she still had an inner instinct that told her what was happening was wrong, and it ended up giving her enough strength to run away. Now, that she’s back in the real world, Martha doesn’t know how to deal with herself. Olsen got everything right about this character: the vulnerability, fear, numbness and strength. As we get to the end, Martha’s emotions heighten, and you finally get to see the extent of her anxiety and how truly affected she was. Once we understand everything, we get to that last scene… and I’m not even going to get into it because I’ll spoil the movie for you.
John Hawkes, unsurprisingly, plays a convincing cult leader. Patrick has that charisma that can lure people in, but there is darkness under all of that. Hawkes was a brilliant choice to play Patrick. Sarah Paulson and Hugh Dancy both do a fine job of playing their characters. I particularly liked the interactions between Paulson and Olsen. They had a strained sibling relationship, but you could instantly tell that they deeply cared for each other.
Overall, Martha Marcy May Marlene is a great film. Usually for movies, it’s the performances that blow me away. While I think Olsen was great (and I can see her nabbing an Oscar nod), I really was impressed by the filmmaking. Director Sean Durkin has an interesting style that made this story into something more. This isn’t a movie for everyone. If what I have to say peaks your interest, then definitely go and see it.
Martha Marcy May Marlene is now playing in select theaters. It will go wide on November 4th. Click here to see when and where it opens!