Feature

Martha Marcy May Marlene

In Sean Durkin’s award-winning debut film, an escaped cult member struggles to re-assimilate with her family.

Directed by Sean Durkin(R)

***

Writer/director Sean Durkin’s debut is “a deft, old-school psychological thriller” that features a “superb performance” by newcomer Elizabeth Olsen, said J. Hoberman in The Village Voice. Olsen, the younger sister of celebrity twins Mary-Kate and Ashley, plays an escaped cult member who’s struggling to re-assimilate with her well-to-do family while she’s haunted by memories of the Manson-like clan she recently fled. What’s “ingenious” about the story’s structure is that we learn only gradually about the cult and its continuing hold on the title character’s psyche, said Rene Rodriguez in The Miami Herald. John Hawkes is fantastic as the twisted cult leader, and Olsen is perfect as an “enigmatic, blank-faced” young woman whose wounds seem permanent and whose paranoia becomes our own. The ending frustrates, said Lisa Schwarzbaum in Entertainment Weekly. After all the suspense, this Sundance award winner “leaves a viewer hanging—lost in an enveloping fog of mood without resolution.” Even so, the film marks the arrival of a star. Olsen is a performer who “looks like she knows exactly who she is and what she can do.”

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