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


Sean Durkin


Sean Durkin
3,137 ( 523)
22 wins & 74 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Elizabeth Olsen ... Martha
Christopher Abbott ... Max
Brady Corbet ... Watts
Hugh Dancy ... Ted
Maria Dizzia ... Katie
Julia Garner ... Sarah
John Hawkes ... Patrick
Louisa Krause ... Zoe
Sarah Paulson ... Lucy
Adam David Thompson ... Bartender (as Adam Thompson)
Allen McCullough ... Man in Home #2
Lauren Molina ... Cult Member
Louisa Braden Johnson Louisa Braden Johnson ... Cult Member
Tobias Segal ... Cult Member
Gregg Burton Gregg Burton ... Man in Home #1

Elizabeth Olsen Through the Years

Take a look back at Elizabeth Olsen's movie and TV career in photos.

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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

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:

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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 »


When Marcy/Martha wakes up after freaking out at her sister's party, she is wearing heavy, perfectly applied makeup. Since she had previously had an emotional breakdown, then slept, this is unlikely. See more »


[first lines]
Watts: [as Martha runs away] Marcy! Marcy May! Where ya goin'?
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Featured in WatchMojo: Top 10 Creepy Cults in Movies (2015) See more »


Marcy's Song
Written by Jackson C. Frank
Performed by John Hawkes
Courtesy of Jim Abbott
See more »

User Reviews

The most boring thriller ever made... and I loved it.
24 October 2019 | by rooprectSee all my reviews

Even the title "Martha Marcy May Marlene" is so boring that most thriller audiences will fall asleep before they finish reading it. But before you click away in search of Saw IX, consider this question: Which is more powerful, a bunch of quick forgettable shocks, or a slow intensifying charge that builds up over 102 minutes? M.M.M.M. definitely takes the latter approach, slowly seeping under your skin, never quite giving you the cathartic release of a good zap, but overall delivering just as much power as any popcorn-spilling slasher, but in a very different way.

And yes, I purposely used the analogy of slow electrical torture because that may be how it feels to some of you. It may feel frustrating, annoying, outright boring and torturous, but if you like your movies on the slower, more cryptic, artistic side, then I guarantee you won't be disappointed. So let's hope my 1st two paragraphs were enough to help you make a decision on whether or not to watch this flick. I'll be the first to admit that some days I'm just not in the mood for "2001: A Space Odyssey" and I'd rather just pop in... Saw IX.

Yay you're still here. Ok here's what you can expect if you choose to watch M.M.M.M. It's the story of a young, late-teen, early-20s girl who escapes a bizarre cult commune, and now she's attempting to adjust to a normal existence. Mystery surrounds her, as she doesn't want to talk to anyone about it (brushing it off with a manufactured lie about some ex-boyfriend), and we the audience are kept in the dark for almost half the film. Why was she there? What did they do to her? Are they hunting her down? Perhaps stalking or planning to kill her?

There are no quick answers, but instead the film jumps back & forth between 2 timelines: the current one after she escaped, and the past one where she is slowly being initiated into the cult. And in order to get a grasp of what's going on, you really have to watch the whole 102 minute experience.

But as suspenseful and powerful as the plot is, that's not the point. The point is to draw us, the audience, into the mind of a person who's suffering severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. And it accomplishes that masterfully. This is not some Hollywood cliché about PTSD, but it's a complex, heavy, powerful depiction of the anxiety, delusion, paranoia and growing madness of someone who is haunted by ghosts that just won't go away.

Elizabeth Olsen absolutely knocks it out of the park with her performance. Her approach is very layered: on the surface she acts like it's no big deal and that she's a normal person in control of her life, but she frequently exhibits bizarre "socially unacceptable" behavior prompting others to wonder "what the hell is wrong with her??" even though she herself doesn't understand what she did wrong. At the same time you can feel the rising tension and paranoia, especially as the timeline cuts back to darker & more disturbing episodes, and even though there aren't any car chases and chainsaws, we start to feel every bit of her disturbing, confuse existence.

If this slow, powerful approach to cinema appeals to you, then don't hesitate to check out M.M.M.M. I would group it alongside other slow, "uneventful" psychological films like "Shadows & Lies" with James Franco, "Ginger and Rosa" with Elle Fanning, or maybe even the iconic Soderbergh flick "Sex, Lies & Videotape". All of these movies are somewhat slow, heavy and extremely non-Hollywood but they deliver a powerful shock that you won't soon forget.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Release Date:

21 December 2011 (Sweden) See more »

Also Known As:

Martha Marcy May Marlene See more »

Filming Locations:

Livingston Manor, New York, USA See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$137,651, 23 October 2011

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital | SDDS | Datasat



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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