Martha Marcy May Marlene


Martha Marcy May Marlene

Critics Consensus

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



Reviews Counted: 204

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Average Rating: 3.6/5

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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 Searchlight

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Critic Reviews for Martha Marcy May Marlene

All Critics (204) | Top Critics (45)

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

Mar 18, 2014 | Full Review…

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

Mar 18, 2014 | Rating: B | Full Review…

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.

Feb 18, 2012 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…

It's acted and directed like a sensitive drama, rather than a scary movie, and is all the scarier for it.

Feb 2, 2012 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Once we've got over the frustration of this promising film's abrupt ending, we're left with the feeling that you can escape a cult but you can't escape yourself.

Jan 31, 2012 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
Time Out
Top Critic

A purposely disturbing portrait of a damaged psyche.

Nov 4, 2011 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…
Detroit News
Top Critic

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
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
Daniel Perry

Super Reviewer

Complex story that takes a little bit of concentration to realize it's not made like other movies. People who are complaining about there being no ending aren't watching the movie close enough. I have to admit, it didn't hit me right away either. I kept wondering where the name Marlene actually came about...then I remembered her answering the phone with that name..then it dawned on me that the end isn't really the end. And I don't think things turned out well for her real family....Quite a clever twist, in my opinion.

Cynthia S.
Cynthia S.

Super Reviewer

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