It’s difficult to say a movie about the emotional and physical torment of a character is entertaining or enjoyable. It’s also not fair to say a movie like Martha Marcy May Marlene isn’t stimulating in some ways. I like this kind of good but tortured story, a look at elements of human nature we don’t want to face.
What do we do to each other when we decide that our view of the world is right? A man who has decided that his closed, religious, sexually manipulative view of the world has formed a cult at some point before we came along. Our part of the story begins when a young woman is escaping the torment of the madness.
How does our leading lady find the world that she left behind? We don’t learn the whole story, just this slice of time. She finds her sister, who has worried for 2 years about her missing sister. We meet the brother-in-law who becomes the voice of reason throughout the story. The sister wants to tip toe around, slowly cultivate the trust and relationship again. The brother-in-law wants to just get on with life and get the damaged sister out and on her way to being repaired.
There are flashbacks to her time with the cult, harrowing moments of emotional and sexual imprisonment that have either scarred her, or become her new found view of the world. Has she suffered unrepairable damage, too much to be back in the “real” world? Has she decided that that place, the cult, the relationship the leader built with her is more valuable, and makes more sense than this “real” world she finds with a materialistic family? These are the tough questions that the story plays out to ask and it makes this film an extraordinary experience. It’s not perfect, of course. There are some weaknesses with the heavy handedness here and there, but that’s to be expected when someone wants to tell a story like this.
The performances are all amazing. I don’t doubt any of the characters for even a moment. They are all dug into who they are, and seem to be living it to the degree of making me get lost along with them…..and that makes it better!
I want more movies like Martha Marcy May Marlene, thinking, creepy, scary, intelligent, meaningful, challenging, and that trust me, the watcher, to have enough thinking power to figure it out for myself.
- Mary Last Seen Short Film – The short film that inspired the movie, this is actually very good as serves as a sort of prequel to the main feature.
- The Psyche Of A Cult – A cult expert takes you through what it takes to start one.
- Spotlight On Elizabeth Olsen – A short interview with one of my favorite new stars, I think shes incredibly mature for such a young actress.
- The Story – One of those EPK style featurettes that play on the Fox movie channel, not much information here really.
- The Making Of Martha Marcy May Marlene – A 3 minute look at how the film was made.
- A Conversation With Filmmakers – All the extras on this disc are around 3 minutes long do they think we have short attention spans or something?
- Marcy’s Song Music Video By John Hawkes – Hawkes performs the super creepy song from the movie in a studio. Once you hear this song in the movie you will be freaked out every time you play this.
Cover Art and Menus: Cover = 9/10 Menu = 4/10
The cover image is one of a rare few that does exactly what it should, present an accurate mood for the movie. There is an ominous figure in the background with a young woman in the foreground looking either contemplative, scared, or satisfied. It’s up to you, before and after you see the film. The menu is just navigation, so there is nothing to get excited about.
Audio & Video: 6/10
The 1080P AVC encode used for Martha Marcy May Marlene is less than stellar. I have read several reviews that say the black levels were raised to grey as a directorial choice but I beg to differ. Mist scenes that take place in the dark are actually unwatchable with no shadow detail at all everything merges into a washed out mess. There is also a lot of noticeable banding in the sky in some shots.
The audio is a different story with a very clean and sharp DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that for a small indie movie like this sounds much better than it should. Great separation and surround usage including use of the LFE channel during Hawke’s musical number. The thing I noticed most about this soundtrack is the use of wind and ambient sound to provide a creepy atmosphere.
Martha Marcy May Marlene is an uneven HD experience on Blu-Ray but the movie itself overrides the technical issues as it’s one of the years best.
I really found this movie to be one of my favorites of the year so far, therefore it feels like a good value at around seventeen bucks. I can’t say that it’s a re-watch movie for a lot of folks so to rent it online or Red Box, or wait for it to be streamed somewhere might be the way to go for a very intense movie watching experience. The extras are pretty slim in terms of quality so you won’t get a lot of bulk entertainment for your money, an excellent movie should be enough, however sometimes I need more to feel like I made a good purchase. Martha Marcy May Marlene satisfied my movie lover taste buds, the extras left me a little bit hungry for more. If you find it for around 10 dollars you will be getting a great edition to your collection for a fair price.
Overall Score 8.5/10