Martha Marcy May Marlene Blu-ray Review

After a young woman escapes from a dangerous cult, she becomes haunted by paranoia and memories of their manipulative and subtly, mind altering ways.  MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE was a small critic’s darling that came out last year picking up a lot of recognition from the independent circuit including Best Director for Sean Durkin (who also wrote the script) in the Sundance Film Festival. The psychological drama succeeds in originality and incredible performances.

Elizabeth Olsen in Martha Marcy May Marlene

Elizabeth Olsen (star of the recent SILENT HOUSE and younger sister to Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen) gave one of the best performances of the year as a broken woman that unknowingly gets caught up in the mess.  The title represents her character’s name in different stages.  Marcy May is her religious cult given name where everyone is so kind and caring to her at the beginning but still give harmful requests while simultaneously breaking her down with insults.   The compliments come in a way where she feels she belongs but still owes the group her services and obedience.  John Hawkes (nominated for an Oscar for WINTER’S BONE) is the cult leader, who gives another haunting performance creating sympathy, power, fear and love projecting from one character.  He makes deception and manipulation look easy when in one breath he tells Marcy May that she is a leader and teacher yet breaks her down by saying she needs to open up, help out and show actions to be a follower.  The character does unspeakable abusive acts physically and mentally and treats it as love.  In a more psychologically disturbing scene he sings a song to Marcy May that is both beautiful and creepy.

John Hawkes, Elizabeth Olsen in Martha Marcy May Marlene

The film slows a bit when dealing with the present as Marcy May tries to adapt to her life away from the secluded commune located deep in the woods.  Plagued with the fear that they will come after her and the habits that are unbecoming of societal norms, Martha struggles to find her place in the “normal” world.  While these scenes display some of Olsen’s more talented acting abilities, the film loses some energy and momentum with her sister (Sarah Paulson) and her sister’s husband (Hugh Dancy).  But the differences between the two worlds give a powerful juxtaposition that helps us understand a victim’s troubles in recovery.

Sarah Paulson, Elizabeth Olsen in Martha Marcy May Marlene

Personally I have never understood how people could reasonably accept the insanity of a cult but that is a shortsighted view when I don’t know the background, education or support system behind every individual.  After saying that, I found the film quite thought provoking leaving me with the urge to want to know more about different cults and the before and after effects they have on their people.  One of the most interesting aspects is how the film rationalized the cult life from the victim’s perspective.  Ultimately MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE is an intriguing story that not only speaks volumes through the dialogue but also through the silences due to some amazing performances.


Video: (Widescreen 2.40:1) The low quality picture is probably due to the low budget indie aspect but certain scenes had an unnatural cloudy and low resolution look.

Audio:  (5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio) The audio utilizes the silences and sounds from nature and behind closed doors.

Mary Last Seen (13:38): A pretty interesting short film following the days before a girl gets dragged into a cult.

Spotlight on Elizabeth Olsen (2:46): Olsen talks about what drew her to the movie and her character.

The Story (3:41):  A few of the actors explain their characters and what the movie was about. 

The Making of Martha Marcy May Marlene (3:09): A quick fluff piece about the movie. 

John Hawkes, Elizabeth Olsen in Martha Marcy May Marlene

A Conversation with Filmmakers (3:14):  This has the writer/director of MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE and two producer friends discussing how they came up with the movie.   Like all these features, this could have been more interesting if they spent more time discussing.

The Psyche of a Cult (5:06):  This was actually very interesting explanation of what a cult is and how they work.  It felt like a tease because now I want to learn more about these horrific groups and their victim’s stories.

“Marcy’s Song” Music Video by John Hawkes (3:58):  The song from MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE is great but like I said before in the context of the film it is pretty creepy and scary.  Hawkes is fantastic.



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