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Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)

2:32 | Trailer
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
3,727 ( 2,007)
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 offered the role directly to Sarah Paulson, being a fan on her work on Studio 60. See more »


When Martha is sitting by the lake side her top changes colour from one shot to the next. See more »


[first lines]
Watts: [as Martha runs away] Marcy! Marcy May! Where ya goin'?
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Featured in Maltin on Movies: Project X (2012) See more »


Written by Jackson C. Frank
Performed by Jackson C. Frank
Courtesy of Jim Abbott
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User Reviews

Bad kundalini rising
23 December 2011 | by chaos-rampantSee all my reviews

This is an exercise in controlled emotional damage, channelling oblique hurt and social condemnation from Haneke, or softened from Bruno Dumont. It plays well for a debut, a studied work referencing 3 Women and Bergman's Glass Darkly among others, the result a carefully tuned psychologic thriller, but raises a few questions along the way.

It troubles me more because my primary interest in film just so happens to be Buddhist and linked with meditation as the means for a true perception into the nature of things.

What does it mean for example, that the philosophy of the character who looms the most elusive but enormous behind the whole sordid thing is based on a complete, foolish misunderstanding of the Buddhist nirvana? Of course we could wave away any such concern by falling back to exactly this sort of skewed understanding as the cause of so much pain, a harsh, selfish understanding of a selfless awareness with none of the boundless compassion that is primarily stressed in Buddhism, but we are clearly expected to use the worldview from this man to challenge the privilege and complacency of the couple having a spacious lake-house in Connecticut to retreat to just for the weekends. Why not swim in the nude, we're meant to ask this much. But does the filmmaker posit a horrible man or merely horribly understood, this much remains for our consideration.

It hinges all its power however on us being charmed along with Martha, then be appalled that we were, even as or exactly because there is too much Nietzche in John Hawkes' spiritual leader.

The whole idea here of course is that she is not simply damaged by an irrational world, here as well as there, but that we're not given any rational world to fall back to for the healing. Both worlds are called under scrutiny, each one secluded in its own microcosm. It makes for some cheap shots along the way.

Since this is, above all, a swim in the flotsam of a world falling apart, with less and less stable footing between the overlaps, it does well to work the way it does. We are meant to be baffled for easy answers. We're meant to not be able to tell ahead of time where we always land, say scrubbing what kitchen floor. With suffering a given response anywhere, we're meant to wonder even for a moment what microcosm is finally the more comforting, and then shudder that we did.

So in terms of structure it's dealt really well by the first-time filmmaker, let's see what he does; as our first go round the commune approach with trepidation a kind of soothing reverie about new exciting freedom and openness as dreamed and controlled by this man, himself equally soothing and strange, gradually allow the haze of nightmare to seep in, all the while fanning the fumes from the hallucination to distort the view and coherence of the safe haven above while troubling us that it may be in the same breath revealing its true essence. Then for the second go round, with the arrival of a new member in the reverie, make us firmly a part of the nightmare being dreamed by showing us the controls, while outside reality is shattered almost beyond recognition.

It is careful work. Is Martha's initial apprehension for example, a fear of what is being shared or of sharing herself? Did her sister's husband make a pass at her, or was he merely trying to wake her up? We can make our calls by the end, but we have only broken pieces of her by that time.

Broken pieces then that no longer fit together, mirrored in the many names for this woman, the many facets of the one image irretrievably lost, that this man hangs on his wall when no one else wouldn't. He sings well but it's a sinister, ruthless song.

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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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