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Haunted by painful memories and increasing paranoia, a damaged woman struggles to re-assimilate with her family after fleeing an abusive cult.
Release Year: 2011
Rating: 7.3/10 (7,641 voted)
Critic's Score: 76/100
Stars: Elizabeth Olsen, Sarah Paulson, John Hawkes
Storyline Martha has run away from an abusive hippie-like cult where she was living as Marcy May for two years. She turns to her sister and brother-in-law who take her in and want to help her. The problem is Martha is having a hard time separating dreams from reality and when haunting memories of her past keep resurfacing, she may need more help than anyone is able to give her.
Cast: Elizabeth Olsen
Adam David Thompson
(as Adam Thompson)
Man in Home #2
Louisa Braden Johnson
Man in Home #1
Filming Locations: Catskill Mountains, New York, USA
Opening Weekend: $137,651
(23 October 2011)
(5 February 2012)
Did You Know?
The title of the movie appears to be built around two songs by Jackson C. Frank. "Marcy's Song" is performed by John Hawkes' character in the movie. Jackson C. Frank's own rendition of "Marlene" plays during the end credits.
We're trying to have a family and I don't feel safe with you here. Martha:
You're gonna be a terrible mother.
What's wrong with you?
Greetings again from the darkness. This one has been on my radar since
the Sundance Festival and all the raves about Elizabeth Olsen's
performance. After attending a screening last evening, I find myself at
a loss to adequately describe not just her stunning turn, but also this
unusual film from writer/director Sean Durkin.
On the surface, this sounds like just another movie peeking inside a
creepy cult that brainwashes, and psychologically and physically abuses
women, and is led by a charismatic (and creepy) religious style
figure-head. There are many similarities to the Manson-family story of
which much has been published, but Mr. Durkin takes the film in a much
different and very creative direction by concentrating on what happens
to Martha (Olsen) after she escapes the cult.
In the Q&A, Durkin states he did much research and found the most
fascinating story to be that of a cult escapee and what she went
through during her first three weeks of freedom. Martha sneaks out
early one morning and places a panic call to her older sister, whom she
hasn't communicated with in two years. Settling in to the lake house
with big sis and new brother-in-law, it becomes quite obvious that
Martha doesn't know how to fit in society and has absolutely no
interest in discussing her recent past.
The sister is played very well by Sarah Paulson, and her husband is
Hugh Dancy (so very good in Adam). This seemingly normal yuppie couple
is trying to do right by Martha, but the fits of paranoia, outbursts of
anger, and societal goofs are just too much for them.
The genius of this film is in the story telling. The cinematic toggling
between today and moments of time at the cult farm house leads the
viewer right into the confused mind of Martha. We don't get much back
story but it's obvious she was "ripe" for cult world when she was
chosen. We see how Patrick, the quietly charismatic leader, sings her a
song and steals her heart ... she wants so much to belong. We also see
how she bonds with the other women at the farm house, and ends up in a
situation that seems to snap her out just enough so she finds the
strength to leave. The editing of scenes between these two worlds in
outstanding and serve to keep the viewer glued to the screen.
Last year I raved about an independent film called Winter's Bone. I
chose it as one of the year's best and it ended with some industry
award recognition. I am not willing to say this film is quite at that
level, but I will say that the younger sister of the Olsen twins,
Elizabeth, delivers an incredible first feature film performance and
Sean Durkin deserves an audience for his first feature film as
writer/director. Another bond between the two indies is that John
Hawkes plays the cult leader Patrick, and Hawkes was a standout in
There will undoubtedly be some debate about whether this is cutting
edge independent filmmaking or just another snooty art-house
mind-messer. All I can say is, I hope the film grabs enough audience
for the debate to matter ... it deserves it.