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Martha Marcy May Marlene (DQ)


Stars: Elizabeth Olsen, John Hawkes, Maria Dizzia, Hugh Dancy, Sarah Paulson, Brady Corbet, Julia Garner, Christopher Abbott

Director: Sean Durkin

This stultifying confused-identity film ends seemingly before its story is told and, even while critics may applaud its central performance, will probably be of little interest to general audiences.

Martha, now known as Marcy May (a solid portrayal by newcomer Olsen) escapes from a sort of hippie commune/small cult after two years, and phones her sister Katie (Dizzia) living with her new husband (Dancy). As Martha unsuccessfully tries to free herself from her previous existence, the film focuses more and more on the commune and its sinister and all-powerful leader Patrick (Hawkes), who 'indoctrinates' all female members on their first night - a particularly painful experience for Martha who's a virgin.

These scenes are sombrely, even muckily photographed (perhaps deliberately) with an undercurrent of violence ever present, brought out into the open when, on one of the cult's frequent raids on well-to-do homeowners, one is knifed to death by a female member,

Meanwhile, Katie and her husband are being pushed to their limits by Martha's outbursts and mood swings, at one point appalled when she comes in and lies on their bed while they're having sex.

There's also a scene involving Olsen as Marlene, seemingly married to a Michael Lewis, and having aides-memoire on the walls for their names. I didn't understand that bit, but then I'm a simple soul. Miss Olsen, however, has considerable talent, a beautiful body and more distinctive features than older twin sisters Ashley and Mary-Kate. Watch this face...

David Quinlan

USA 2011. UK Distributor: 20th Century Fox (Fox Searchlight). Technicolor.
102 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 29 Jan 2012