Title: Martha Marcy May Marlene
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Director: Sean Durkin
Writer: Sean Durkin
This last year’s Sundance darling, MMMM is a perturbing piece of director-writer Sean Durkin’s debut feature, showcasing montages yoking two paralleled story-telling about a young girl Martha’s life within an anonymous cult (under the guidance of a collective sharing canon, the austere and independent lifestyle, while sexual abuse and some inexplicable brutality are being conspired in a horrid fashion) and after a two-year stint, she escapes from it and stumblingly copes with her foray into the real world.
A low-end cinematography gives away a barren but pertinent observation, but the occasional buzzing score is somehow quite nettlesome. An abrupt ending leaving an unsatisfactory and unfinished business.
Elisabeth Olsen is magnetic in her first screen leading role, a definitely awards-worthy dimension of letting off her elasticity as the troubled-soul, being haunted by her shellshocked mistreatment and aftershock of witnessing fiery violence of the anonymous cult group. Olsen’s visceral dedication is remarkable though, but our sympathetic sensation has been hindered by the edgy shots and an ambivalent script, knowingly playing mysterious and keeping certain distance towards both the mystified cult and the disheartened couple – Martha’s caring but ineffectual sister and her secular husband, their approach to uncover the truth behind is unimaginably lame (Sarah Paulson and Hugh Dancy are barely shimmering alongside)
The late-bloomer John Hawkes is so insidiously charismatic as the cult leader (a Charles Manson analogy) and his solo rendition of Marcy’s Song has an irresistible spell which is the deadly potion for naif girls (it will work simply just switching the name of its title to his prey).
Labelled as another Oscar-nominated indie-thriller WINTER’S BONE (2010), MMMM is not adept in its maze-unraveling progress, instead it hinges firmly on crisscrossing between its two different stretches of narrative. So being shut off by the academy is not an inadequate bombshell at all.