By Alynda Wheat
October 31, 2011 12:00 PM

Martha Marcy May Marlene

Elizabeth Olsen, John Hawkes, Sarah Paulson, Hugh Dancy | R |



“What happened to you?” asks Lucy (Paulson), after picking up her estranged, traumatized sister in a placid farm town. “I don’t know,” is all Martha (Olsen) can muster. But gradually the shards of Martha’s memories form a terrifying mosaic. A trusting girl joins an agrarian commune of beautiful people. It turns out to be a cult run by the charismatic Patrick (Hawkes), who rechristens Martha “Marcy May,” robbing her of identity and so much more. Hawkes, an Oscar nominee for Winter’s Bone, is just as menacing here, but this is Olsen’s movie. The younger sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley shows breathtaking range, so vacant with her sister and brother-in-law Ted (Dancy), yet startlingly vibrant in pre-trauma flashbacks. There are quibbles: Why don’t Lucy and Ted get help for Martha sooner? What does the ending mean? But the beauty of Olsen’s star-making performance is inarguable.