Movie review: Olsen twins' younger sister excels in 'Martha Marcy May Marlene'
Elizabeth Olsen steps out of the twin shadows of her famous older sisters and establishes herself as an actress gifted with perception and emotional depth beyond her years in the gripping psychological thriller “Martha Marcy May Marlene.”
First-time writer-director Sean Durkin displays considerable talents, too, as he quietly and cunningly unfolds one disturbing secret after another while sure-handedly guiding Olsen through a mesmeric performance in the title role of a young woman who steals away from a cultlike farming “family” in the Catskills and attempts to re-enter the normal world.
The terrified Martha has no one to turn to but her estranged sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson), who invites Martha to come and stay with her in the elegant lakeside house she shares with new husband, Ted (Hugh Dancy), in Connecticut.
It is here that Martha intends to deprogram herself without revealing where she’s been for the past two years, but she soon realizes that escaping her rural ordeal is not as easy as simply walking off into the woods.
Still conditioned in the customs of intimate communal living, she thinks nothing of climbing in bed with Lucy and Ted while they’re making love, one of several inappropriate behaviors that triggers tension in the house. This new life feels as strange to Martha as the world from which she’s broken away.
She’s also tormented by memories that slowly begin creeping back on her, revealing all that she’s been through since a need for familial love led her to the farm commune and a chilling sexual relationship with Patrick (John Hawkes, “Winter’s Bone”), the fatherly and manipulative community leader.
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