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Martha Marcy May Marlene

REVIEWED BY: Naila Scargill
RELEASED: February 3 2012

Martha Marcy May Marlene is initially quite involving, its maintenance of mystery very effective. Our titular character has run away from an overcrowded house in which the women appear to be servants, and has no idea as to her location. The story is then drip-fed via flashback, as we learn that Martha had disappeared after indoctrination into an extreme cult.

Olsen is absolutely fantastic as the troubled individual, portraying the blank-faced trauma of her ordeal very convincingly. Without her, Martha Marcy May Marlene would be a much lesser film; it’s hard to believe this is her first feature role.

The problem is that the story’s raison d’être—the long-term psychological impact on Martha—doesn’t lead us anywhere; there is no development of character, other than the predictable inflation of paranoia. As such, the film feels terribly drawn out; frustratingly, the tension of initial scenes just does not pay off. This is more due to an overly ambitious idea for a feature debut, however, than bad filmmaking. The scene had been set well. Should Sean Durkin attempt another psychological journey in the future, it will probably be worth a watch. As for Elizabeth Olsen, she could be destined for great things.

2 stars

 

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