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Marcy Mary May Marlene 2011 ***

Writer and director Sean Durkin’s thriller was briefly touted for awards before the controversial nature of the subject matter seemed to cause cold feet all round; a pity, because Elisabeth Olsen is quite brilliant as the title character, referred to be different names at various points in her indoctrination and escape from a sinister cult. Durkin uses a clever flashback structure to describe how Martha is seduced into the farm-based community led by Patrick (Winter’s Bone and The Sessions’ John Hawkes), while also capturing Martha’s uncertain return to her family in the form of sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson). Martha Marcy May Marlene is a tense watch, creating genuine tension and with one unbearably grim murder to maintain the sense of menace, which lasts right until the final, breath-taking frame.


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