REVIEW: New movie is a disturbing experience about loss of identity

By Lulu Orozco

The Guardsman

“Martha Marcy May Marlene”: a cinematic thriller meets drama wrapped in a cult


Elizabeth Olsen stars as Martha, a young woman who attempts to find her place in a household cult disguised as a family and her struggle to find her own identity, in the the new psychological thriller “Martha Marcy May Marlene.”

The story begins with Martha as she enters into a new “family” which in reality is not a family but an abusive, mind-controlling cult. Once she begins to integrate herself into this new group and their uncommon teachings, she slowly begins to lose her sense of reality.

Martha’s identity crisis conveys her frustration and anger. And she begins to question herself and the very structure of the normal world around her when she says, “There are other ways to live, people don’t need careers: they should just exist.”

The film’s timeline moves between past and present: the past when she was an active member of the cult and the present when she is attempting to become part of her sister Lucy’s life, after fleeing the cult.

Once out of the cult her abusive, life changing experiences results in paranoia which plays with her mind making every new situation a blur between the real and unreal.

As she turns to her sister Lucy for help, played by Sarah Paulson, Martha struggles to re-assimilate herself into a normal life.

Unable to differentiate what is right from what is wrong, she crawls into her sister’s bed while Lucy and her husband are having sex. This emotional scene grasps viewers attention and lets us know that this kind of behavior was part of her everyday life amongst the cult.

John Hawkes plays Patrick, the leader of the cult. He is the hardest character to grasp. Manipulative behaviour is paired with seemingly profound theories, like “death as pure love”, yet he is persuasive and makes everyone who is a part of his family feel a part of things.

While the film will stir up a big question about the loss of identity and the quest to re-establish one’s self in society, “People should go into the movie with an open mind, and know that you don’t always have to have an answer for everything,” said actress Elizabeth Olsen during a phone interview.

The film will open at the Kabuki and Metreon theaters Oct. 28, in San Francisco.

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