Martha Macy May Marlene

First Hit: Interesting idea but the slow paced execution left me wanting to understand more.

The idea of how someone is affected by living in a cult community and then deciding to leave and go back to their family is a very interesting one.

This film gives only the perspective of Martha (played by Elizabeth Olsen) as we see her leaving the compound where she has lived for 2 years. She calls her sister and goes to live with her.

During the two weeks she is with her sister Lucy (played by Sarah Paulson) and Lucy’s husband Ted (Hugh Dancy), her involvement with the commune/cult is flashed back upon. Her first sexual experience was with Patrick (played by John Hawkes) the leader of the commune while she was drugged and passed out.

Patrick sexually enters all his women from behind, which I found telling about him and what he teaches his followers. For someone who demanded others to be open and upfront with everyone, only to have his most intimate actions with the women of the community from behind so that his face isn't seen was poignant.

We learn, as the film moves along, that Lucy and Martha’s mother died when Martha was in high school and Lucy was in college. Lucy feels guilty because she didn’t come back and take care of Martha when their mother died. What didn’t happen in this film was storyline around what was Martha’s decision making process as to how and why she found herself in Patrick’s community.

What was very effective was how Martha portrayed this lost young woman caught between two different lifestyles, right and wrong, and how to find her path through life.

Elizabeth Olsen was very strong and believable as a young girl trying to find herself and what her role in life is. Sarah Paulson was very strong as Martha’s sister. She portrayed the right mix of love, concern and repulsion at her sister’s actions. John Hawkes was effective as the cult leader who uses guilt, intelligence and guile as a base of power. Hugh Dancy is good as Lucy’s husband who has had enough of Martha’s antics. Sean Durkin wrote and directed this film and it seemed to me that this was a good attempt but for such a complex idea there needed to be additional background information.

Overall: This was a valiant attempt to portray a very interesting subject but the execution lacked background to validate the basis.