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Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)

Cults should give excellent material for films given that they’re sinister, oppressive and could be capable of anything. This describes Martha Marcy May Marlene (MMMM) very well, except that Martha doesn’t really become part of a cult, it is more like a small commune. OK so the commune is still sinister, oppressive and capable of anything but they don’t outwardly appear to have any definite tenets.

Elizabeth Olsen’s Martha has spent two years with the “family” headed by the very creepy Patrick (John Hawkes), and having escaped is very confused and traumatised; she is then rescued by her sister and she tries to reconnect with normal life. The film narrative flips between time on the commune (including gardening, casual rape and murder), and Martha trying to deal with her emotional confusion and forgetting how to behave in normal society.

There is a very good performance from Olsen, she very believably shifts between confusion, vulnerability and anger. It is a very accomplished performance that would make you believe that she has a series of great movie performances under her belt, she hasn’t, this is only her second feature film. John Hawkes has a very malevolent presence as Patrick, I don’t think that his character had that many scenes, but he felt ever-present; and when he was on screen you just had the feeling that he was capable of anything (including playing a hauntingly beautiful song on the guitar!).

Though it is a very well made film, there are a lot of unanswered questions; and as to the ending? Well I don’t think I’ve seen a film before where a few members of the audience audibly said “Huh?” There is certainly no closure to the story, if indeed there was really a story arc! It is a good film, it just doesn’t follow the usual beginning middle and end format; OK so a lot of films don’t necessarily follow this format, but MMMM only really seems to have a middle!