Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011) - Rotten Tomatoes

Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)



Critic Consensus: Led by a mesmerizing debut performance from Elizabeth Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene is a distinctive, haunting psychological drama.

Movie Info

Martha Marcy May Marlene is a powerful psychological thriller starring Elizabeth Olsen as Martha, a young woman rapidly unraveling amidst her attempt to reclaim a normal life after fleeing from a cult and its charismatic leader (John Hawkes). Seeking help from her estranged older sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) and brother-in-law (Hugh Dancy), Martha is unable and unwilling to reveal the truth about her disappearance. When her memories trigger a chilling paranoia that her former cult could still be pursuing her, the line between Martha's reality and delusion begins to blur. -- (C) Fox Searchlightmore
Rating: R (for disturbing violent and sexual content, nudity and language)
Genre: Mystery & Suspense, Drama
Directed By: ,
Written By: Sean Durkin, T. Sean Durkin
In Theaters:
On DVD: Feb 21, 2012
Box Office: $3.0M
Fox Searchlight - Official Site


John Hawkes
as Patrick
Adam Thompson
as Bartender
Lauren Molina
as Cult Member
Tobias Segal
as Cult Member
Gregg Burton
as Man in Home #1
Allen McCullough
as Man in Home #2
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Martha Marcy May Marlene

Critic Reviews for Martha Marcy May Marlene

All Critics (195) | Top Critics (44)

In quiet, intimate ways, it is one of the most startling, haunting films you'll see all year.

Full Review… | March 18, 2014
Associated Press
Top Critic

Durkin intersperses the present-day scenes with increasingly revelatory flashbacks from Martha's two years in the cult.

Full Review… | March 18, 2014
Christian Science Monitor
Top Critic

MMMM emphasizes the social and economic discrepancies between Martha's then and now, and alludes to Lucy's guilt about not being there for her younger sister in the past.

Full Review… | February 18, 2012
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic

Durkin's swaggeringly confident film utilizes long takes and tension within compositions to conjure an all-consuming sense of unease.

Full Review… | May 3, 2015
Philadelphia Weekly

The beauty of Olsen's star-making performance is inarguable.

Full Review… | March 18, 2014
People Magazine

Martha is a cipher in the mounting drama, but Olsen manages to give her real life with a sort of reverse charisma, curling her physical beauty into poses of aggression or loss.

Full Review… | March 18, 2014

Audience Reviews for Martha Marcy May Marlene

Elizabeth Olsen makes her cinematic debut in Sean Durkin's 'Martha Marcy May Marlene', a psychological thriller about life after escaping (?) a cult and the paranoia that accompanies it.

MMMM is an accomplishment of atmospheric filmmaking, with first-time director Durkin managing to shroud every moment of regular life with a sense of unease and brooding tension that usually wouldn't be there. Some shots last for what feels like an eternity whilst others pass within seconds, some moments you think you see something whilst in others you feel it, you never know what is -or isn't- coming and its gripping.

The editing also adds to the sense of unease within the film, flitting between protagonist Martha's life at the cult and her current one without a moments notice. Everything within the way the film is made feels like it's out to get you, and, much like Martha, you don't know if it is or not.

As far as performances are concerned Olsen does an outstanding job, playing Martha with a sense of subtlety and fragility that is skill-wise unmatched by the rest of the cast. John Hawkes also does a great job as the cult's charismatic leader, blurring the line between kindness and cruelness in an always-interesting fashion. Perhaps the film's only flaw is the way some of its characters react, with Martha's sister and brother in-law in particular coming off occasionally as so plundering its silly.

Verdict: A great debut for both its star and director, Martha Marcy May Marlene is an intense ride.

Cameron Sherwell
Cameron Sherwell

Super Reviewer

Really impressed with Elizabeth Olsen. Has been great in everything I've seen her in.
I would like to watch this movie again before I review it properly as it is quite complex and I didn't know what it was about initially. Quite compelling viewing about the effects of a cult.

Nicki Marie

Super Reviewer


The log line says this film is about attempting to re-integrate a cult survivor into a family, and it is, but I thought that was only one aspect of the plot; almost more interesting was the far-reaching impact of sexual exploitation at a young age, and the way that the film lays bare just how many of our practices, rituals and social norms are based on a presumed common understanding of sexual mores. The standout scene for me is when Martha goes swimming upon returning to her sister's house, and unblinkingly strips naked before she jumps in. It's kind of like when a film gives you the ending first - you have to ask, "So how did you get to this point?" It's a particular kind of disruption, and something not commonly seen in mainstream film. Fairly well acted, particularly by that other Olsen sister, and though slow in places, a compelling watch.

Daniel Perry

Super Reviewer

Martha Marcy May Marlene Quotes

Martha: Not everything has to be a big deal.
– Submitted by Zeldagne L (3 years ago)
Patrick: Your my favorite. I won't lose you.
– Submitted by Frances H (3 years ago)
Patrick: Death is pure love.
– Submitted by Frances H (3 years ago)
Lucy: Sometimes I think I just should have come home, and made sure you went to college. You had so much potential.
Martha: I don't need your guidance now and I didn't then. I am a teacher and a leader. You just never let me be that, but now I am, and I know who I am.
Lucy: A teacher and a leader? What are you talking about?
– Submitted by Frances H (3 years ago)

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