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Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)


Average Rating: 7.8/10
Reviews Counted: 193
Fresh: 174
Rotten: 19

Critics Consensus: Led by a mesmerizing debut performance from Elizabeth Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene is a distinctive, haunting psychological drama.

Average Rating: 8/10
Reviews Counted: 44
Fresh: 39
Rotten: 5

Critics Consensus: Led by a mesmerizing debut performance from Elizabeth Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene is a distinctive, haunting psychological drama.


Average Rating: 3.6/5
User Ratings: 18,034


Movie Info

Martha Marcy May Marlene is a powerful psychological thriller starring Elizabeth Olsen as Martha, a young woman rapidly unraveling amidst her attempt to reclaim a normal life after fleeing from a cult and its charismatic leader (John Hawkes). Seeking help from her estranged older sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) and brother-in-law (Hugh Dancy), Martha is unable and unwilling to reveal the truth about her disappearance. When her memories trigger a chilling paranoia that her former cult could still be … More

R (for disturbing violent and sexual content, nudity and language)
Mystery & Suspense , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
T. Sean Durkin
In Theaters:
Feb 21, 2012
Box Office:
Fox Searchlight - Official Site


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Critic Reviews for Martha Marcy May Marlene

All Critics (193) | Top Critics (44) | Fresh (174) | Rotten (19) | DVD (9)

In quiet, intimate ways, it is one of the most startling, haunting films you'll see all year.

Full Review… | March 18, 2014
Associated Press
Top Critic

Durkin intersperses the present-day scenes with increasingly revelatory flashbacks from Martha's two years in the cult.

Full Review… | March 18, 2014
Christian Science Monitor
Top Critic

MMMM emphasizes the social and economic discrepancies between Martha's then and now, and alludes to Lucy's guilt about not being there for her younger sister in the past.

Full Review… | February 18, 2012
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic

Once we've got over the frustration of this promising film's abrupt ending, we're left with the feeling that you can escape a cult but you can't escape yourself.

Full Review… | January 31, 2012
Time Out
Top Critic

A purposely disturbing portrait of a damaged psyche.

Full Review… | November 4, 2011
Detroit News
Top Critic

Durkin depicts a horror that some among us actually live, where the search for family leads to something familiar and dangerous.

Full Review… | November 4, 2011
Denver Post
Top Critic

The beauty of Olsen's star-making performance is inarguable.

Full Review… | March 18, 2014
People Magazine

Martha is a cipher in the mounting drama, but Olsen manages to give her real life with a sort of reverse charisma, curling her physical beauty into poses of aggression or loss.

Full Review… | March 18, 2014

A moody, atmospheric study in paranoia and tension.

Full Review… | March 18, 2014
Metro Times (Detroit, MI)

In a world lacking trust, every movement seems a threat, around every corner lurks betrayal.

Full Review… | March 18, 2014
Austin American-Statesman

Durkin's direction is strong and assured and due to it, we get a fresh and exciting film that serves as a nice debut for Elizabeth Olsen.

Full Review… | November 11, 2013
We Got This Covered

With a diegesis mapped along the mental contours of its protagonist, Martha Marcy May Marlene harkens back to Pasolini's notion of the cinema of poetry--and achieves it beautifully.

Full Review… | June 28, 2013
Film Comment Magazine

Olsen, in a captivating, career-making performance, makes Martha awkward and inscrutable, sexual yet innocent...She makes the journey a mesmerizing and chilling experience and turns a cryptic film into an unforgettable one.

Full Review… | December 29, 2012
McClatchy-Tribune News Service

A subtle, yet challenging, character drama with stand-out performances and some truly beautiful camerawork.

Full Review… | October 2, 2012

Martha Marcy May Marlene might not have campaign funding or grandstanding performances, but it has heart and soul, two qualities which are slowly corrupted throughout for your viewing pleasure.

Full Review… | September 24, 2012

A disturbing psychological drama that's guaranteed to rack up more and more followers as its menacing message is spread.

Full Review… | August 25, 2012

A brilliant exploration of the destructive power of cult conditioning.

Full Review… | July 27, 2012
Cinema Sight

It may not be a fun film to watch, or one that you'd care to repeat very often - but it's a necessary experience.

Full Review… | April 27, 2012
2UE That Movie Show

Neither the thriller the trailer suggests, not the feminine, visual poem the poster suggests, this is a film about loss of self that is absolutely clear about its own identity

Full Review… | March 22, 2012

This is a very real and very chilling look at cult behavior, and it's understandable how this can unnerve parents who worry a lot about their adult children.

Full Review… | March 19, 2012
7M Pictures

This is a troubling portrait of how fear and abuse leave their tentacles in everything they touch - and a haunting one at that.

Full Review… | March 15, 2012

Olsen delivers an amazing performance and it's tragic seeing her go from a gorgeous young woman to a beautiful basket case. A must see. I've never seen a film that generates such a high level of anxiety by doing so little.

Full Review… | March 8, 2012
The Popcorn Junkie

The masterstroke is that Durkin only reveals why Martha is so messed up in flashbacks constructed to mirror her fractured mental state. Olsen plays it with a chilling amount of honesty and the movie creeps up on you and leaves you completely paranoid.

Full Review… | March 2, 2012

The performance of Olsen, effortlessly moving between playful girlishness, catatonia and hysterical paranoia, is remarkable.

Full Review… | March 1, 2012
Fan The Fire

Audience Reviews for Martha Marcy May Marlene

Elizabeth Olsen makes her cinematic debut in Sean Durkin's 'Martha Marcy May Marlene', a psychological thriller about life after escaping (?) a cult and the paranoia that accompanies it.

MMMM is an accomplishment of atmospheric filmmaking, with first-time director Durkin managing to shroud every moment of regular life with a sense of unease and brooding tension that usually wouldn't be there. Some shots last for what feels like an eternity whilst others pass within seconds, some moments you think you see something whilst in others you feel it, you never know what is -or isn't- coming and its gripping.

The editing also adds to the sense of unease within the film, flitting between protagonist Martha's life at the cult and her current one without a moments notice. Everything within the way the film is made feels like it's out to get you, and, much like Martha, you don't know if it is or not.

As far as performances are concerned Olsen does an outstanding job, playing Martha with a sense of subtlety and fragility that is skill-wise unmatched by the rest of the cast. John Hawkes also does a great job as the cult's charismatic leader, blurring the line between kindness and cruelness in an always-interesting fashion. Perhaps the film's only flaw is the way some of its characters react, with Martha's sister and brother in-law in particular coming off occasionally as so plundering its silly.

Verdict: A great debut for both its star and director, Martha Marcy May Marlene is an intense ride.

Cameron Sherwell
Cameron Sherwell

Super Reviewer

Really impressed with Elizabeth Olsen. Has been great in everything I've seen her in.
I would like to watch this movie again before I review it properly as it is quite complex and I didn't know what it was about initially. Quite compelling viewing about the effects of a cult.

Nicki Marie

Super Reviewer


The log line says this film is about attempting to re-integrate a cult survivor into a family, and it is, but I thought that was only one aspect of the plot; almost more interesting was the far-reaching impact of sexual exploitation at a young age, and the way that the film lays bare just how many of our practices, rituals and social norms are based on a presumed common understanding of sexual mores. The standout scene for me is when Martha goes swimming upon returning to her sister's house, and unblinkingly strips naked before she jumps in. It's kind of like when a film gives you the ending first - you have to ask, "So how did you get to this point?" It's a particular kind of disruption, and something not commonly seen in mainstream film. Fairly well acted, particularly by that other Olsen sister, and though slow in places, a compelling watch.

Daniel Perry

Super Reviewer

Complex story that takes a little bit of concentration to realize it's not made like other movies. People who are complaining about there being no ending aren't watching the movie close enough. I have to admit, it didn't hit me right away either. I kept wondering where the name Marlene actually came about...then I remembered her answering the phone with that name..then it dawned on me that the end isn't really the end. And I don't think things turned out well for her real family....Quite a clever twist, in my opinion.

Cynthia S.

Super Reviewer

Martha Marcy May Marlene Quotes

Not everything has to be a big deal.
– Submitted by Zeldagne L (19 months ago)
Your my favorite. I won't lose you.
– Submitted by Frances H (22 months ago)
Death is pure love.
– Submitted by Frances H (22 months ago)
Sometimes I think I just should have come home, and made sure you went to college. You had so much potential.
I don't need your guidance now and I didn't then. I am a teacher and a leader. You just never let me be that, but now I am, and I know who I am.
A teacher and a leader? What are you talking about?
– Submitted by Frances H (22 months ago)
You learned to measure success by money and possessions.
– Submitted by Gracia A (2 years ago)
Patrick only has boys.
– Submitted by Wolfzombie D (2 years ago)

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