Skip to main content

Film & TV > Review

//// Writer: Sean Durkin
//// Director: Sean Durkin
//// Cast: Elizabeth Olsen, John Hawkes

Mar 28th 2012 | Ian Barr

It's surprising that the subject of cults – particularly scary backwoods ones – hasn't been mined onscreen more often, considering their potential dramatic and psychological heft. Martha Marcy May Marlene more than fills the gap, albeit in a different way than expected. Here we follow a young woman (Elizabeth Olsen, sibling of Mary-Kate & Ashley) who's been inducted into one, but we begin with her escaping; subsequently jumping back and forth in time between her hazy, bleached-out memories of her draining experiences and her present-day paranoia as she takes refuge in her bourgeois sister's holiday home.

It's nothing new for films to withhold or elide key bits of information about plot and characters and leave audiences to fill in the blanks, but there's nothing lazy about the way first-time writer/director Sean Durkin lets things play out here. Olsen's Martha remains something of a cipher; we get few details about her past prior to her induction. But that ambiguity stresses her very lack of self-definition and identity, the exact qualities that make her a prime target for the power exercised over her and others by leader (John Hawkes, menacing, magnetic blah blah blah). It's up to Olsen to intimate backstory through performative nuance, and she proves more than up to the task, in a justly-lauded breakthrough performance.

As the past and present start to merge in MMMM, the film becomes less about the specific drama around cults and the more about the universal dilemma of whether it's better to feel a false sense of belonging or unmoored in the world you're supposed to belong to. That neither option seems preferable by the time the credits roll is what gives this remarkable film such a chilling punch.


Poster IT

Connect with The Music

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter


<span>Shonen Knife</span><br />Jive

Shonen Knife

<span>The Growlers</span><br />Corner Hotel

The Growlers
Corner Hotel

<span>Far From Folsom</span><br />Parramatta Gaol

Far From Folsom
Parramatta Gaol

<span>Paul Kelly</span><br />Fremantle Arts Centre

Paul Kelly
Fremantle Arts Centre

<span>Passenger</span><br />Palais Theatre

Palais Theatre

<span>Joey Bada$$</span><br />The Hi-Fi

Joey Bada$$
The Hi-Fi

<span>The Kooks</span><br />Belvoir Amphitheatre

The Kooks
Belvoir Amphitheatre

<span>Client Liaison</span><br />Famous Spiegeltent

Client Liaison
Famous Spiegeltent

<span>Nelly</span><br />HBF Arena

HBF Arena

this week's magazine

Digital Version
A Festival Called PANAMA Airlie Beach Music Festival Australasian Worldwide Music Expo Beyond The Valley Big Sky Blues & Roots Festival BIGSOUND Bleach Festival Blue Mountains Music Festival Blues At Bridgetown Bluesfest Breakfest Brisbane Festival Brunswick Music Festival Bruthen Blues & Arts Festival Caloundra Music Festival Campfire Festival CMC Rocks The Hunter CoLAB Deni Ute Muster Dungog Festival Earth Frequency Festival El Grande Festival Fairbridge Folk Festival Falls Festival Falls Festival Falls Festival Farmer & The Owl Festival Of The Sun Follow The Sun Festival Future Music Festival Future Music Festival Future Music Festival Future Music Festival Future Music Festival Golden Plains Gorgeous Festival Great Southern Blues Festival Groovin The Moo Groovin The Moo Groovin The Moo Groovin The Moo Groovin The Moo Groovin The Moo Gympie Music Muster HyperFest JamGrass Music Festival Jungle Love Music & Arts Festival Just For Laughs Kyneton Music Festival Let Them Eat Cake Listen Out Listen Out Listen Out Listen Out Lost Paradise Melbourne Music Week Meredith Music Festival Mitchell Creek Rock 'n' Blues MOFO Mountain Sounds Mullum Music Festival Nannup Music Festival National Folk Festival Newtown Festival Noosa Jazz Festival NYE On The Hill Origin NYE Originals Music Festival Out On The Weekend Outlet Music Festival OutsideIn Paradise Music Festival Party In The Paddock Perth Festival Poison City Weekender Port Fairy Folk Festival Queenscliff Music Festival Rainbow Serpent Festival Riverboats Music Festival Rottofest Saltwater Freshwater Festival Secret Garden Festival Soulfest Soulfest Soulfest Soundwave Soundwave Soundwave Soundwave Southbound Splendour In The Grass St Jerome's Laneway Festival St Jerome's Laneway Festival St Jerome's Laneway Festival St Jerome's Laneway Festival St Jerome's Laneway Festival Stereosonic Stereosonic Stereosonic Stereosonic Stereosonic Strawberry Fields Subsonic Sugar Mountain Festival Sydney Country Music Festival Sydney Festival Sydney Fringe Festival Tamworth Country Music Festival The Blurst Of Times Festival The Hills Are Alive The WA Circus Festival Toowoomba Carnival Of Flowers UNIFY: A Heavy Music Gathering Urban Country Music Festival Valley Fiesta Vanfest WAM Festival West Coast Blues & Roots Festival WOMAdelaide Wonderland Woodford Folk Festival Yours And Owls

The Music Store

Australasian Music Industry Directory
The ultimate print sourcebook for all the contacts…
Jun 18th 2014
Arts Advertising Packages
The Music Arts Packages provide promotion in The Music…
Jun 18th 2014
Indie Band Advertising Packages
The Music Indie Band Packages provide promotion in…
Jun 18th 2014
Galleon Krueger for Sale
Galleon Krueger Bass Amplifier. 1001RB As new, current…
Jul 12th 2014
Jazz guitarists wanted for weekend jams.
We are a bass and drums unit rehearsing in St Peters…
Jul 12th 2014
Premier Sydney Punk/Rock Band seeks Drummer
One of Sydneys Premier Punk Rock Bands seeks energetic…
Jun 18th 2014