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Martha Marcy May Marlene

Directed by Sean Durkin

USA, 2011

Cornerhouse, 4 February 2012

Martha Marcy May Marlene

Elizabeth Olsen gives a powerful central performance in this quite unnerving film.

She plays Martha, a woman indoctrinated into a cult whose methods include intimidation, abuse, rape and even murder.  On escaping, Martha makes contact with her estranged sister but adjusting to ‘normal life’ becomes unsettling too.

It’s told through timeshifts: Martha at her sister’s house, her experiences there evoking flashbacks, memories of her time spent with the cult.  To be abused is one thing, to be complicit in the abuse of others is quite another.

The end is one of implication: the cult leader (John Hawkes, excellent as per usual) turns up on her doorstep, intending to reclaim her as his own.

A good but disturbing film, and I’m very surprised it doesn’t have an 18 certificate.