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

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Generally favorable reviews- based on 106 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 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)

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 33 out of 38
  2. Negative: 2 out of 38
  1. Reviewed by: Steven Rea
    Oct 27, 2011
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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
    Elizabeth Olsen delivers an utterly transfixing turn as the title character of this chilling psychological thriller.
  7. Reviewed by: Mick LaSalle
    Oct 27, 2011
    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: 30 out of 39
  2. Negative: 6 out of 39
  1. Feb 25, 2013
    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 storytelling and a powerful yet unpretentious performance by Olsen. Outrageously overlooked. Expand
  2. Feb 5, 2012
    Amazing film - very sinister and reminiscent of Funny Games where the nothing is allowed to fill the eerie silence. Elisabeth Olsen's performance was truly superb and deserves the plaudits, awards and nominations she's receiving at the moment - one to watch for the future. The suspense and tension throughout the film made you wish to be put out of your misery (in a very good way). Expecting big things from director Sean Dirking in the very near future...bravo Expand
  3. Feb 1, 2013
    Martha is picked up at the bus stop scared, confused, and alone. As she attempts to settle in to a normal life with her sister, she is haunted by horrible images from the past, where she had become part of a hippie commune led by the persuasive and charismatic Patrick. Martha's nightmares, fear, and paranoia continue to build until she is unable to separate her dreams from reality. First-time director Sean Durkin has struck immediate success with MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE, the award-winning cult drama from 2011. Durkin delicately interlaces the past and the present as he retells Martha's chilling experiences using an organic story structure. It is terrifying to think just how easily an impressionable mind could be manipulated and controlled in such a way, but Durkin takes all of the right steps in disarming the audience in the same way that Patrick has disarmed his followers, perfectly illustrating the power of coercion and the psychological lures that draw people in to such a group. Elizabeth Olsen is phenomenal as Martha, and commits herself mind, body, and soul. There are moments where Martha makes contact with the viewer and causes them to turn away in shame for intruding into her thoughts and emotions. John Hawkes is deadly as Patrick, coming on with a subtle charm that effectively seduces the other characters under his spell before corrupting their minds. MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE will not be easily forgotten, and is a top-contender for Best in 2011.

    -Carl Manes
    I Like Horror Movies
  4. Nov 9, 2011
    Well told story of a troubled girl to say the least. The movies disturbing narrative exceeds making hairs stand up on you neck, it painfully pricks them leaving you with no choice but to continue watching, yes that's a good thing. Watching "MMMM" re-develop her relationship with her sister, (or should I stay corrupt further) was more intense to watch than the cult like farm life. The movie has good cinematography and Olsens performance is better than the older sisters life work combined. I hope the academy recognizes her performance. Expand
  5. Lyn
    Dec 23, 2011
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. An interesting exploration of PTSD, and well-acted by all. But the frustration of a couple of characters who don't do what you really, really want them to do culminates in an abrupt, unsatisfying ending. Expand
  6. Dec 25, 2011
    I hate movies that leave me with a question mark at the end, but this takes away what it was a movie that I agree with the expectation until the last minute but ultimately disappointed, I have to praise the performance of Elisabeth Olsen magnificent. btw: the song of Marcy, damn addictive. Expand
  7. Mar 26, 2012
    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 39 User Reviews