Films with Olsen family members in the cast are usually to be avoided like the plague, I think I can just about name one movie staring an Olsen, (it’s Mary-Kate, if you’re interested) that’s worth seeing. So, naturally I think, there was a certain amount of trepidation preceding my viewing of Martha Marcy May Marlene featuring Elizabeth Olsen as the lead. However, I am ashamed/pleased to say that she, Miss E Olsen, is rather talented. It may not have been the toughest stretch in cinematic history for her to play a character so lacking in emotional diversity and enthusiasm for life, but she pouts, shrugs and sighs her way through a fine performance. She captures Martha’s fragility of mind perfectly, never making us love or hate the character and thus detract us from Martha’s struggles. It a very nicely balanced performance.
The director, Sean Durkin, makes his feature debut with MMMM and it’s a stunningly well controlled piece of cinema, especially from a rookie director. It would be easy for this piece to turn into a turgid, unwatchable movie, yet it’s rather accessible. That’s not to say it’s an easy watch, it does contain rape and other disturbing scenes, but you never get the sense the film is looking for attention by incorporating such difficult situations into its story. If you’re unaware of the movie it concerns a group of people, mainly girls, living together in a compound that’s basically run as a cult by the ever so creepy Patrick, (played fantastically by John Hawkes.) It’s very dark and not much fun, but it has real depth and it draws you into the film scene by scene. The story intrigues and is well told, mainly via flashback, and the direction is spot on. It really should have received Oscar nominations ahead of some obviously weaker films.
Marks out of ten – Eight