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Generally favorable reviews - based on 38 Critics What's this?

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7.1

Generally favorable reviews- based on 110 Ratings

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  • Summary: "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. Seeking help from her estranged older sister Lucy and"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. Seeking help from her estranged older sister Lucy and brother-in-law, 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. (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

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Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 33 out of 38
  2. Negative: 2 out of 38
  1. Reviewed by: Steven Rea
    Oct 27, 2011
    100
    Moves from its protagonist's dream state to her memories to her waking present in imperceptible shifts - the effect is disorienting, at first, but ingenious.
  2. Reviewed by: Bill Goodykoontz
    Nov 3, 2011
    90
    Olsen makes us understand, as best we can, Martha's plight. She has a tenuous grip on reality, and, thanks to Olsen's performance and Durkin's sure hand, by the film's end, so do we.
  3. Reviewed by: Michael Phillips
    Oct 27, 2011
    88
    The acting in Durkin's feature is excellent. Olsen is utilized largely as an object for camera adoration, but not in the usual glamorizing way. Olsen, Hawkes and company play slippery figures with lovely assurance.
  4. Reviewed by: Peter Debruge
    Oct 16, 2011
    80
    The largely elliptical script feels a few drafts shy of focus, with the thriller elements undermining the juicier questions of why one joins a cult and how life can go back to normal later.
  5. Reviewed by: J. Hoberman
    Oct 18, 2011
    80
    A deft, old-school psychological thriller (or perhaps horror film) that relies mainly on the power of suggestion and memories of hippie cult crazies.
  6. Reviewed by: Ann Hornaday
    Oct 27, 2011
    75
    Elizabeth Olsen delivers an utterly transfixing turn as the title character of this chilling psychological thriller.
  7. Reviewed by: Mick LaSalle
    Oct 27, 2011
    25
    Martha Marcy May Marlene is a strange case, a drama that's disturbing and yet inert. Writer-director Sean Durkin builds an atmosphere of dread, which means that he persuades us to believe in the characters and in the central situation. But he doesn't build interest.

See all 38 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 31 out of 40
  2. Negative: 6 out of 40
  1. Feb 25, 2013
    10
    A year has past since I first watched this film and with the exception of one or two, not a film has come close. Second to none storytellingA year has past since I first watched this film and with the exception of one or two, not a film has come close. Second to none storytelling and a powerful yet unpretentious performance by Olsen. Outrageously overlooked. Expand
  2. Nov 25, 2011
    9
    There is a quiet dread that lurks over every scene in Sean Durkin's masterful feature debut, Martha Marcy May Marlene. The movie tells a storyThere is a quiet dread that lurks over every scene in Sean Durkin's masterful feature debut, Martha Marcy May Marlene. The movie tells a story of a young woman, Martha, who flee's an abusive cult and stays with her sister. While safe with her family, Martha's growing paranoia takes over as the film shifts effortlessly between reality, dream, and memory. We see what Martha sees. The film features a breakout performance from Elizabeth Olsen who is magnetic in the title role. She delivers the breakout performance of the year and I hope that it takes her as far as last years Jennifer Lawrence and she is awarded with an Oscar nomination. There has been a lot of talk revolving around the ambiguity of the movie. There are no answers for some of what we see on screen but I gather that that is the point. The movie is told from Martha's perspective. We are left to wonder, just like her, how much of what is going on is real or in her mind. Martha Marcy May Marlene is a glorious feature with strong performances, beautiful cinematography and editing, and an ending that will leave many frustrated by its ambiguity but also reward everyone with conversation after it is done. One of the best films of the year. Expand
  3. Nov 17, 2012
    9
    Often times, when we go to the movies and see a great film, we lay back in our seats and go
  4. Nov 2, 2011
    7
    Like another reviewer, I also left this film feeling very disturbed and sure I would have nightmares (didn't), so any film that can produceLike another reviewer, I also left this film feeling very disturbed and sure I would have nightmares (didn't), so any film that can produce that kind of emotional reaction gets a thumbs up from me. It was not a perfect film, but overall really well done. I enjoyed the split time-line way of telling the story, always trying to guess what time period I was watching. Thought Elizabeth Olsen was very effective, but once again agree that Jennifer Lawrence would have been better cast (MarcDoyle we ought to compare notes on film). So it's worth the time and $, go. Expand
  5. Sep 1, 2014
    7
    Dark and fascinating, Martha Marcy May Marlene is not your everyday cult film. Elizabeth Olsen gives us a performance to really sink our teethDark and fascinating, Martha Marcy May Marlene is not your everyday cult film. Elizabeth Olsen gives us a performance to really sink our teeth into and continue talking about for weeks. Expand
  6. Oct 31, 2011
    6
    The seamless shifting between present and past is artful and unique, but just when it's picking up pace and drawing the story lines togetherThe seamless shifting between present and past is artful and unique, but just when it's picking up pace and drawing the story lines together it ends. It just stops. Could have been so much better with 20 more minutes. Expand
  7. Mar 26, 2012
    0
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Where was Marlene? After @20 minutes I began fast forwarding to see if anything actually "happens". It finally does, someone gets killed for no reason. Uninteresting story and people. Why is the heroine the way she is? Why was she so lost? Is she strong ? I guess so because she runs away; but why? She must be weak because she believed that rape and abuse are normal. Why was this movie made? What's the point? A film must reach me on at least one emotion. Nothing, hence the grade, reached me. Every generation has it's group that does something different; pushes the envelope; creates an opposite. Sometimes those with too much time on their hands, grab on and tell us to "Look at the emperor's beautiful clothes" because there is very little going on. They try to convince us the clothes are beautiful when in fact this emperor is not wearing anything; like the heroine. Expand

See all 40 User Reviews

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