Home > Movie Review > Movie Review: Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)

Movie Review: Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)

Martha calls her sister to come get her from the Catskills.  She’s been missing for two years.  Over the course of the next two weeks, her behavior becomes increasingly abnormal in ways her sister cannot understand, while the audience sees flashbacks to where Martha was for the previous two years–living in an abusive cult.

This is the best representation of PTSD I’ve seen on film to date.  Martha’s outbursts of violence, sobbing, and even loss of bladder control seem completely out of the blue to her sister and brother-in-law, but she and audience can clearly see what minor things brought them on.  Anything from a pine cone falling on the roof to a spoon clanking against a glass to a hand placed in just the wrong place on her body can set her off.

The audience is left with many gaping holes and unanswered questions in the plot line, but this is one of the rare instances where that works.  We are seeing things through Martha’s eyes in the bits and pieces typical of someone with PTSD.  The film is more about giving us a sense of what it is to be Martha than telling us the story.  It is a character study through and through.

The filmography feels documentary style instead of film style.  It is gritty and sometimes shaky.  This sets the appropriate tone for the film.

The acting is what seals the deal for this film though.  Everyone is excellent, but Elizabeth Olson is superb.  She *is* Martha Marcy May.  She acts from the top of her head to the tips of her toes.  I hope she continues to make wise movie role choices, because she could have a major acting career ahead of her.

The one drawback to the film is the ambiguous, sudden ending.  I get it that the director was trying to help the audience feel the paranoia Martha feels, but the ending was so jarring that it drew away power from the rest of the film.

Overall, this is a serious, powerful look at PTSD through the eyes of a sufferer.  I highly recommend it.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Movie Theater

  1. November 5, 2011 at 5:33 am

    I’ve never heard of this movie but it sounds like powerful stuff, will have to keep an eye out for it.

    • November 7, 2011 at 3:26 pm

      It’s an indie flick and was a huge hit at Sundance, so perhaps it will come to a theater near you. At least to dvd though!

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