I'll be honest, the main problem for me with Martha Marcy May Marlene is the ending. But I can't tell you why because it'll spoil the film for you. But when you see it, you'll know what I mean.
But for hour and 45 minutes before the end, I found this film to be really interesting with a stand-out performance from Olsen in the lead role. You may not have heard of Elizabeth Olsen before – she's the younger sister of the ubiquitous 1990s twins Mary-Kate and Ashley. After watching her performance in this film it seems obvious the twins might have the billions of dollars, but Elizabeth got the talent.
She plays Martha (later to become Marcy May and then Marlene) who at the beginning of the film is running away from what seems to be a small community of people in very rural America. Then we see she's scared of the people she's running from and as the film progresses we come to understand why she's running and why she's scared. Martha ends up at the summer home of her estranged sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) and her new husband Ted. But as her behaviour gets worse she never explains to them what's happened to her. Lucy is left to think Martha has been living with a boyfriend and now they've broken up. It's only Martha and the audience who knows different.
As Martha's sense of unease begins to grow, so does the viewer's. Is everything that we're being shown part of Martha's own paranoia and is that why she's not telling her family about it? It's up to the audience to make these assumptions. It's a movie that makes you think for a long time after the end credits (especially with the aforementioned ending).
Olsen really is fantastic, she has to carry the whole film on her shoulders and she's annoying, heartbreaking and haunting. I'm surprised she's not figured more in awards season. This is a film that wears its 'indie' credentials on its sleeve so if that's your thing (and you can get past the ending) it's well worth seeing, not least so you can say you saw Olsen before she went global (which she will).
EXTRAS ★★★ The short film Mary Last Seen (13:37); Spotlight on Elizabeth Olsen (2:46); The Story (3:41); The Making of Martha Marcy may Marlene (3:09); A Conversation with the Filmmakers (3:15); The Psyche of a Cult (5:06); the music video for Marcy's Song, by John Hawkes (3:58); the theatrical trailer.