At first it looks idyllic. Scenes of people on a farmstead, building a shed together, preparing food together. Talking and laughing and doing life together. It seems like a peaceful and caring community. But not all is as it seems.
When we pay closer attention, we realize all the women sit and wait for the men to eat a hearty dinner, then descend upon the dining room for a much more simple and sparse meal. After dinner, they all fall onto a smattering of mattresses strewn on the floor of a couple bedrooms in the rambling farmhouse.
And after dark, we watch one of the young women, with frantic eyes and deft movements, slip out the front door and run off into the nearby woods. We sense that she, Martha (Elizabeth Olsen), has escaped from something dark and sinister.
Martha eventually lands with her sister, Lucy (Sarah Paulson), and Lucy's new husband, Ted (Hugh Dancy), at their summer lake house in Connecticut. Lucy hasn't heard from Martha in two years. All that Martha is willing, or perhaps able, to say of her whereabouts is that she was upstate with a boyfriend she has now left.
Over the following weeks, yuppie Lucy grows increasingly frustrated with the odd words and actions of her younger sister, while Martha has chilling flashbacks of her time with the cult, where she was known as Marcy May—memories that start to blur with reality and feed a growing paranoia that she might still be in danger.
There's an economy of dialogue, back story, and explanation in Martha Marcy May Marlene, and this lack of information sometimes adds to the unsettling nature of the film. As Martha remembers more and more of her time with the cult, not that it's ever called that in the film, we start to see the descent—the friendly community ...1
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Martha Marcy May Marlene
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