A woman escapes a crazy cult only to find herself unable to fully get away, psychologically and literally. Sure we’ve seen it before, but have we seen it with this much nudity? Well, yeah, we probably have, but not recently. That was more a ‘70s supernatural horror plot and Martha Marcy May Marlene is more of suspense thriller.
We were kind of tepid about the movie from the trailer. The line from the LA Weekly was “A thriller that shifts nearly imperceptibly between dream, memory and reality.” If that were accurate, it would probably make for a terrible movie. What MMMM does do is switch between two timelines very rapidly—one post-cult, and one mid-cult. But it was almost always very quickly clear which timeline you were in, which was very important to being able to understand what the hell was going on.
Martha toys with the whole “Is it a dream?” idea, but this is a product of her psychological state. The movie itself stays very realistic.
We see Martha struggling with her traditional family, and constantly flashing back to her cult family. What I think the reviewer was getting at was that the cuts were very tight, and there’s no warning as to where you are, so you really have to pay attention.
I can’t talk about it much, since at least half the point of a movie like this is how things unfold. The drip-drip-drip of the reveal of info about the cult and the simultaneous unfolding of Martha’s normal familial relationships.
This movie hangs together really well. You have all these questions about how Martha ends up in the cult and why others can’t see that she’s not quite right, and the movie trickles out development that makes it all make sense. Again, being opaque here because the experience is really about the discovery.
It’s a little weaker the suspense/thriller department. It’s good, but it backs off a bit with the tension. The ending is good, but the movie’s climax is more about social embarrassment than any real fear. It’s like the shape of the movie is tight, just not propelled forcefully forward, like a great thriller.
The Boy liked it, but not enthusiastically. I liked it, too, especially as it managed to show the creepy cult without spreading the creepiness to the viewer, as these movies often do.