Down 458 this week

Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)

R  |   |  Drama, Thriller  |  21 December 2011 (Sweden)
Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 7.0/10 from 38,572 users   Metascore: 76/100
Reviews: 185 user | 340 critic | 38 from Metacritic.com

Haunted by painful memories and increasing paranoia, a damaged woman struggles to re-assimilate with her family after fleeing an abusive cult.



Watch Trailer
0Check in

Watch Now

From $2.99 on Amazon Video

20 wins & 65 nominations. See more awards »



Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

Kevin's mother struggles to love her strange child, despite the increasingly vicious things he says and does as he grows up. But Kevin is just getting started, and his final act will be beyond anything anyone imagined.

Director: Lynne Ramsay
Stars: Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Ezra Miller
Take Shelter (2011)
Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

Plagued by a series of apocalyptic visions, a young husband and father questions whether to shelter his family from a coming storm, or from himself.

Director: Jeff Nichols
Stars: Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Shea Whigham
Silent House (2011)
Horror | Mystery | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.3/10 X  

A girl is trapped inside her family's lakeside retreat and becomes unable to contact the outside world as supernatural forces haunt the house with mysterious energy and consequences.

Directors: Chris Kentis, Laura Lau
Stars: Elizabeth Olsen, Adam Trese, Eric Sheffer Stevens
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6/10 X  

Two New York City girls make a pact to lose their virginity during their first summer out of high school. When they both fall for the same street artist, the friends find their connection tested for the first time.

Director: Naomi Foner
Stars: Dakota Fanning, Elizabeth Olsen, Sterling Jones
Winter's Bone (2010)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

An unflinching Ozark Mountain girl hacks through dangerous social terrain as she hunts down her drug-dealing father while trying to keep her family intact.

Director: Debra Granik
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Garret Dillahunt
Liberal Arts (2012)
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

When 30-something Jesse returns to his alma mater for a professor's retirement party, he falls for Zibby, a college student, and is faced with a powerful attraction that springs up between them.

Director: Josh Radnor
Stars: Josh Radnor, Elizabeth Olsen, Zac Efron
Shame (2011)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

In New York City, Brandon's carefully cultivated private life -- which allows him to indulge his sexual addiction -- is disrupted when his sister arrives unannounced for an indefinite stay.

Director: Steve McQueen
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, James Badge Dale
Dogtooth (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

Three teenagers live isolated, without leaving their house, because their over-protective parents say they can only leave when their dogtooth falls out.

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Stars: Christos Stergioglou, Michele Valley, Angeliki Papoulia
Fish Tank (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

Everything changes for 15-year-old Mia when her mum brings home a new boyfriend.

Director: Andrea Arnold
Stars: Katie Jarvis, Michael Fassbender, Kierston Wareing
Melancholia (2011)
Drama | Sci-Fi
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

Two sisters find their already strained relationship challenged as a mysterious new planet threatens to collide with Earth.

Director: Lars von Trier
Stars: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland
Drama | Mystery | Sci-Fi
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

Two documentary filmmakers attempt to penetrate a cult who worships a woman who claims to be from the future.

Director: Zal Batmanglij
Stars: Christopher Denham, Nicole Vicius, Brit Marling
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

A young woman embarks on a road trip with her boyfriend to a place he promises will be beautiful and peaceful. But a series of strange events occur on their journey, and it becomes clear ... See full summary »

Director: Sean Durkin
Stars: Brady Corbet, Stefanie Estes, Alexia Rasmussen


Cast overview, first billed only:
Bartender (as Adam Thompson)
Man in Home #2
Lauren Molina ...
Cult Member
Louisa Braden Johnson ...
Cult Member
Cult Member
Man in Home #1


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. Written by napierslogs

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for disturbing violent and sexual content, nudity and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:

| |  »



Release Date:

21 December 2011 (Sweden)  »

Also Known As:

La fuga di Martha  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$137,651 (USA) (21 October 2011)


$2,981,638 (USA) (3 February 2012)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Sean Durkin was looking for an unknown actress to play the role of Martha, which was the only role auditions were held for. Elizabeth Olsen auditioned twice for the role of Martha, and had to begin filming only two weeks after winning the part. See more »


During Martha's breakdown in the party scene, the bow on her white dress is hanging loose when she is being corralled into the bedroom by Lucy and Ted. In the next shot, the bow is done up again. See more »


[first lines]
Watts: [as Martha runs away] Marcy! Marcy May! Where ya goin'?
See more »


Referenced in Supernatural: Alex Annie Alexis Ann (2014) See more »


Screaming on the Inside
Written by Devon Anderson
Performed by Devon Anderson
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Should be retitled "A Star is Born"
24 September 2011 | by (Canada) – See all my reviews

Moments after the credits began, I knew Elizabeth Olsen was destined for the Oscar red carpet for her work in Martha Marcy May Marlene. It was a quiet thriller I knew very little about content wise before hand, but knew all about the acclaim it has received since premiering at Sundance and Cannes earlier this year. When it came to the Toronto International Film Festival, it was one of the first films I clamoured for tickets for. And now I know why.

Martha (Olsen) has fled an abusive cult lead by Patrick (John Hawkes). After years of being off-the-grid, she calls her estranged sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) to pick her up from a bus shelter. Lucy brings her to the lakeside cottage she shares with her new husband Ted (Hugh Dancy), where they are to spend some much needed time away from their lives in the city. But as Martha tries to adjust back to a normal life, she is continually haunted by the memories of her life in the cult.

I was initially underwhelmed walking out of Sean Durkin's debut feature, loving Olsen's performance but not much else. But as the days have gone on, I continually find myself obsessing on every moment of Martha Marcy May Marlene. Despite the backwoods feel and its atmospheric similarities to last year's Best Picture nominee Winter's Bone, this film is just simply unmissable. It is deeply unsettling throughout, and one of the few films that succeed in making the audience deeply uncomfortable. I usually find myself shifting in my seat from boredom. Here, I was shifting just because of how quietly terrified and incredibly disgusted I was with what was going on on-screen. It is a moody piece, but one that sticks with you and scares you more every time you talk and think about it. And it is that feeling, that earnest inner torment that keeps bringing me back and appreciating it more and more.

Durkin brilliantly frames the film in a similar vein to Memento, jumping back and forth between Martha at her sister's cottage in the present and her life in the cult in the past. He weaves in and out of the timelines with care, never once confusing the audience. We simply watch as Martha tries to get on with her life, but keeps finding things that remind her of moments she spent in the cult. He frames the story entirely around her, allowing her unreliability to throw the story into off-putting and disturbing directions. I found myself simply stunned by some of the unbelievable things that occur without warning. Nothing too horrific physically happens, but Durkin makes the implications of what is even more so. More impressive is how no one thing in the film feels insignificant. They all just add up on top of each other magnificently, and help drive the paranoia that plagues Martha from scene to scene, just as much if not more than it does for the audience.

Olsen has appeared in a few films before her work here, but this is an incredibly impressive true debut film for her. Her performance is simply unbelievable and unmissable. Watching her transformation from naïve teenager to paranoid, PTSD victim on-screen is one of the few absolutely amazing moments of film we have had this year. It is made even better by the fact that the film is not even told in sequence, so we are forced to watch her navigate between the depictions with relative ease. Watching her character's arch blossom into something terrifying is something that has become truly rare for such a young, unaccomplished actress. But she makes it work, and forces the audience to never take their eyes off her. She just ups the ante with every scene, and undercuts every actor who she shares the screen with. She is magnetic, and commands the screen with such strength that you would never even pretend to imagine that she is related to the Olsen Twins. Whatever doubts I may have had about the film did not even come close to quashing her compelling and spectacular performance.

Hawkes continues to prove what a remarkable supporting player he is with his work as the leader of the cult. He is always frightening and nightmarish from the very beginning, but seeing him differing forms of sincerity make him a genuinely scary villain. We practically scream at the screen before and after what he puts Martha (or as he calls her, Marcy May) through, and his performance is one of the key reasons why the film is so vividly unsettling. Watching Hawkes playing the guitar and serenading her with a tune he wrote "about her", may go down as one of the most horrific scenes in film history.

Paulson and Dancy do a fairly great job in their thankless roles as Martha's actual family. They help propel the film forward and make Olsen's role all the more fantastic, but I found that they were not given all that much to do outside of helping move the story forward. Paulson does get some very juicy moments, but I think their roles could have been all the better if they had so much more to do. They just seemed like mere plot devices more so than anything else.

While there is still something I still cannot quite describe that holds Martha Marcy May Marlene back from being the best film of the year, I cannot stop thinking about how powerful and great it really is. It is an ambiguous film that stays with you long after you leave the theatre and one that packs one of the single best performances of the year. This is an incredible directorial debut for Durkin, and an even better one for Olsen. Missing this film when it hits theatres is quite simply unacceptable.


59 of 109 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Were there two different endings filmed? JeopardyLeyton
I don't like these endings because ... martasavila
Tired of ambiguous endings Thrillho-5
Is Martha retarded? jimparrett
That is how to end an film! matrix5904
The obvious question that is never asked dazfiddy
Discuss Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: