REVIEW: Martha Marcy May Marlene

Martha Marcy May Marlene
Directed by: Sean Durkin
Written by: Sean Durkin (screenplay)
Starring: Elizabeth Olsen, John Hawkes, Sarah Paulson and Hugh Dancy

Many prominent American indies have started to favor the Before/After plot device.  Blue Valentine and the more recent We Need To Talk About Kevin are both examples of that style being used as a substitution for substance.  Sean Durkin’s debut feature Martha Marcy May Marlene shows that device finally being used in excruciatingly well-done ways.

Along with Margin Call, this film about a young woman traumatized by her time in a cult marks the best American writer/director debut of 2011.  Durkin’s films is decidedly less slick than J.C. Chandor’s drama about the financial collapse in 2008, but they both become unflinchingly honest if very different portraits of American identity.  The point of relation in this film comes from Martha (Elizabeth Olsen), whose strength after escaping the cult seems impossibly strong.

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