This film completely nails what damage paranoia can cause, and it is done in such a well put together time-shifting narrative. Very strong performances by the two sisters, and an absolutely creepy John Hawkes. However, woe is the ambiguous ending. It works sometimes, and other times it just leaves an unsatisfied taste.
It's actually a really good character study in a subtle way. For example, like one person on here said; she runs away yet defends it. This is interesting and well done because sometimes victims of abuse are like that. It becomes ingrained in them. I just thought the way they handled her was really well done... not heavy handed yet accurate. It was never boring, sometimes terrifying. Honestly I'm not sure on the ending... gotta think about it more.
It was perhaps a little TOO slight - I don't mind a lack of much backstory, or slow films at all, but there wasn't quite enough here. That being said, it was a very effective treatise on how a cult can work to brainwash you, with a fantastically unsettling tone and career-making performances from Olsen and Hawkes. The party scene and the ending were both perfect.
For some time there this movie had me, I enjoyed the way it had been building, the subtle shifts from past to present and the tension and distress felt by Martha. Then it flattened out, nothing more was revealed, and I began to grow weary of it. I felt I needed to be more drawn into the indoctrinating methods and dogma the cult threw at these young people I was left high and dry. The movie became as silent as Martha was. When it "ended" a bemused snort from the audience said it all.
Overall, I thought it was really, really good. The atmosphere throughout was quite creepy and was backed up by the cinematography and camerawork. Elizabeth Olsen was fantastic. Equally great were the supporting cast, including several lesser-known actors whom I love, like John Hawkes, Sarah Paulson and Brady Corbet. It was mostly slow, but that was perfect. Suffice to say, I loved it.
Martha Marcy May Marlene took a good hour to start really getting on my nerves. Up till then, I kept cutting this maddening little psychological thriller break after break, because it has the outer form of a promising debut.
Too many "cult" films focus on propoganda - as if there are keywords that cause all who listen to them to fall prostrate at a masochist's feet. MMMM rightly revolves around three elements: emotion, ambiguity, and their intersection. A difficult subject, but Durkin makes it work because, like Hawkes' character, you feel immediately as if you are in good hands, and then it messes with you in deep and frightening ways. It's a beautiful debut film, that will continue to say more with time passing.
In many ways, I feel it's the lost-cousin to last year's Winter's Bone. Except, this time around there's a more focused story, better artistry and all-around superior acting (expect to see an Oscar Nom. for Miss Olsen). Overall, I found it to be an interesting, smart and compelling film. (My date, on the other hand, evidently did not, falling asleep about three-quarters through.)
Really impressive, masterfully liminal debut from Durkin. He projects a palpable sense of disorientation in cutting between ill-lit, indeterminate houses; it's a technique that gives real insight into Martha, and becomes truly riveting as the menacing potential of the cult begins to envelope the film. Hawkes and Paulson are both strong, and Olsen is a perfect conduit: unanchored, disturbed, terrified, luminous and petulant. Wonderful soundtrack- beautiful heavy ambiences and Jackson C Frank.
if there's one point of contention, it's that for 100+ minutes we have no idea what martha thinks about the commune (she runs away yet repeatedly defends it), which is interesting, but when that fails to change even slightly in the important final minute, it's a despondence that quickly - if only temporarily, becomes alienating and opens an unflattering possibility of complicity in her very near future.
I must first state that Elizabeth Olsen's performance is perfect. Not great, not pretty good--perfect. Award worthy. The film itself, though, is unsatisfying. Muted to the point of blandness and kind of obvious. Cults are dangerous and damaging, and the girls who join them often get violently mistreated. This is the film's thesis, and it ain't exactly news. Olsen's perfect, though. Have I mentioned that?
I think I expected a bit more from this film based on multiple things, but this is a pretty good debut for Durkin. I think Olsen was good, but maybe not as great as advertised. Hawkes is convincing. The story isn't amazing, but Durkin definitely helped with the intertwining of the present and past. Ultimately I thought this was pretty good, but it falls short of another 2011 psychological film, Jeff Nichols' Take Shelter.
The most depressing, haunting and disturbing film i've ever seen. This is a tough one because a good film doesn't always have to be all Disney "happy happy joy joy", however although the acting and cinematography is superb, I found this too unsettling and depressing to enjoy it or to have been pleased to have watched it.
A great film but too depressing for me so 5/10
I thought this was a really good film about a person's feeling of impossibility in life. It's not perfect and indeed has some pacing issues and dead weight, but I really liked the cinematography and direction for the most part. Also, a real magic moment with John Hawkes fantastic cover of "Marcy's song" to a perfect image of Olsen's face.
It's sort of perfect filmmaking, but the complaints that it's overwritten seem accurate. Durkin seems to give us too much about how traumatized his protagonist is. The best parts are the ones with Martha dealing in the present. I guess the darker stuff speaks to a European minimalism that's catching on in New York (see also Afterschool). Indeed, this feels not far from the berliner schule, though Petzold himself has botched similar stories.
Not ever seeing Olsen's character really open up in the film is one of my main problems with it. The story is interesting (and plenty disturbing) and the cast is uniformly great, but the abrupt ending makes the movie feel like a waste. Normally I enjoy endings that make you think, but the ending here seems like a case of the writers not knowing where to go. Disappointing, because the movie could've been excellent with a little more effort.