Saturday, 10 December 2011

Martha Marcy May Marlene, dir/wr. Sean Durkin, st. Elizabeth Olsen, John Hawkes, Sarah Paulson, Hugh Dancy

Martha Marcy May Marlene is a hauntingly claustrophobic one-note psychological thriller about a young girl who escapes an abusive cult, and moves in with her sister (Paulson) and her husband (Dancy). Whether members of the organisation have staked out her new home or whether her mind has been completely broken at the commune by the charismatic leader Patrick (Hawkes) is unclear. The trauma of how abusive cult manipulation stays with its victims is viscerally depicted through a terrifyingly persuasive performance by Olsen, but some of the larger plot holes, although cumulatively contributing to the woozy dreamlike atmosphere, are too wooly to totally ignore - and there's an ending that'll test even the most hardened fans of open-endedness. Sundance companion films Another Earth and Take Shelter both feature the same type of ambiguous ending but where they are locked in with the overall tone and colour of the rest of the film, MMMM's ending seems a little too obviously enigmatic. That said, it's a compelling character study of susceptibility and suggestibility.