It drives me bonkers that I am only one person! Gah. I have so many movies to talk about, and unpack, and talk with you all about that I just can’t get to them all. So I’ve decided that I’m going to start changing the format for some reviews. If the movie is a little older, or a little more off the beaten path (You know, zombie apocalypse polo players from Venus… that type) I will blitzkrieg them. And really? The only change here, is that I won’t do the movie walk through in detail. We’ll just head straight to the twinkie innards instead! (Personally? I love that brown stuff that sticks to the card? Eh? Oh hi. Sorry. I have a bad feeling about this Blitzkrieg idea. And having just finished the writeup, there is nothing quick about this write up. I’m thinking this ‘blitzkrieg idea’ is fairly laughable. 2,000 words for a quick writeup?!? hahaha. Anyway, let’s away shall we?)
Martha Marcy May Marlene What Is It?
you haven’t seen the movie yet, I plan to go straight for the explanation of the movie – so, the grenade currently sitting in your browser window? Is about to go off. You need to avoid reading further. But if you don’t know if you want to watch it, let me say this, please do. Martha Marcy May Marlene is a riveting thriller/mental mindjob of a movie that follows Martha as the timeline ducks and weaves back and forth through two different traumatic periods of her life.
It would appear that Martha has fled from an evil hippie cult with really horrible mental mind control underpinnings. For two years Martha marinated in this group think, and now? She is having a terrible time differentiating dreams from reality. Are her past’s experiences converging with the present? Is she being hunted down? It is a taut, riveting, psychological-thriller that is very worth your time. From here on out be Spoilers – Ok? If you need to still watch, or want to watch it again, if you watch Martha Marcy May Marlene from this link right here you’ll help keep these reviews going. Thanks!
Martha Marcy May Marlene Explanation Deep Dive
Understanding the timeline of Martha Marcy May Marlene may help most of you the most. Because, this movie does an amazing job of dovetailing back and forth and back and forth between the past and the present. But the movie gives us enough scraps of details that we can pull together a high level timeline to keep fixed in our heads as we plough into this movie.
Martha and Lucy live with their parents
Lucy (Martha’s older sister) heads off to college.
Martha and Lucy’s parents die (we aren’t told how.)
Martha goes off to college and lives with their aunt for a time
Martha takes off and joins the cult
Spends two years there, and even trains new girls coming in
While breaking into a house the cult kills a man
Martha flees the cult
Lucy takes Martha in, feeling guilty for having left her behind
Martha begins seeing cult members after making a call back
Lucy and her husband decide she needs more help than they can give
On the way to the facility, Martha sees a cult member, or not
Does that line up with the timeline that you thought happened? Where the movie gets really hard to understand is that Martha has been full-on gaslit by this cult. She is literally brainwashed from the moment she arrived to the moment she left. Death is Life. Fear is being present. Murder is freeing. Etc. etc. And you can see the look on these women’s faces as they fall deeper and deeper under this mind control.
What’s With Martha’s Name?
From a marketing standpoint, the title of this movie is a train wreck to sell. Right? Like, just the worst. I remember when the Edge of Tomorrow came out, and the movie changed the title, literally mid-run. I couldn’t personally remember the title. I always thought it was Beginning of Yesterday or something? And Live Die Repeat only confused matters. (Let me get this straight, I loved Edge of Tomorrow. Brilliant movie. But it totally got shellacked by its naming chaos.) Here though? This is an indie film, and it can do whatever the heck it wants.
But to go with a name like Margaret Maggie Melody Malinda you have GOT to have a great reason for it. And they do. Sean Durkin, the writer and director here, is saying something to us extraordinarily intentionally. What is it? Well, it tells us a ton about Martha. First, we learn that Martha is her given name. Then we learn that the Patrick, the cult leader is the one that gave her a new name, Marcy May. And then we learn that the cult has a gambit that they play when people call, that the woman who answers is Marlene Lewis. Males that answer the phone say their name are Michael Lewis. So we learn that Martha is pliable, and manipulatable. She is easily conformable to ideas and opinions of her. Notice the way that Patrick tells her that she is a leader and a teacher, and she repeats that back to her sister later.
What Is Happening To Martha?
As the movie progresses through both timelines, we see some chilling things unfold. The way the women are manipulated, drugged, sexually abused, and told that it is an honor. We watch as the cult spends the evenings stealing from the surrounding community. We watch as cult members pilfer money from relatives and family to keep this commune going. We watch as the lie of this up and coming pastoral farm life never progresses. We know that Patrick and his followers are pillaging the local community to sustain their low key lifestyle of sex and singing. And Martha is buying their logic hook line and sinker.
And when Martha begins her life again with Lucy, we see these ideologies and philosophies intruding and abrasively coming out of her. “Why do you have such a big house?” The idea of communal sleeping has lodged in her brain. She is trapped in this line of thinking of barely eating, etc. This comes to a head when Martha tells Lucy’s husband Ted (played by Hugh Dancy) that his idea of success is money, materialism and promotions is wrong. Welp, seeing as though Ted is paying for her to do nothing, he takes umbrage at this. And this precipitates her heading towards a facility.
But more importantly the overlay of the past, and the present (the editing here is just amazing) is a whole ‘nother level of insane. And it keeps seeming like the cult members are climbing in the windows and the doors and are coming for Martha. And can I say, that there are a ton of scary movies that you guys have me watch. But this movie? Way way scary than any of those. I really like slow burn psychological terror more than full-on horror. This is way more realistic. Way more traumatizing. But maybe that’s just me… and I have a frail mind like Martha’s? hahah.
Explain the Ending of Martha Marcy May Marlene
Yesterday, when I finished the movie, I immediately went out and found the script (which you can read here.) And I will say this, while Elizabeth Olsen did an amazing job throughout this movie… just a phenomenal job, she didn’t do a great job on that very last scene. Here, read it for yourself:
TED Jesus Christ.
LUCY Are you okay?
LUCY Fucking idiot. What was he doing?
The MAN from the dock walks past the car. They almost hit him. As they drive away, Martha turns to see him get into the a brown car, start the engine and drive. The car drives behind Ted’s car.
Martha looks forward for a long moment, then turns back again to see that he is still there.
81. She is frozen with fear, she thinks about saying something but then stops herself. Instead she sits in silence.
Do you see what I mean? “She’s frozen in fear.” I literally didn’t get that from her acting. Maybe a small slice of that? I guessed that she saw that same guy from the dock. But I didn’t grasp from the film itself totally the import of that. I mean, look at this screen scrape of the ending, does this yell terror to you?!?
Anyway, to sum up, just before Lucy and Ted take Martha to the facility, she sees a man out at the docks watching her. And we don’t get a clear picture of who it is on the dock. I know, because I photoshopped out what we could see, and he is literally unidentifiable. Here, see for yourself:
Personally think this is Chris Hemsworth and Martha is becoming the Red Witch. And this is the Red Witch’s origin story. (For those of you with zero sense of humor… that was a joke. (Although, I could gaslight you into thinking it is if you are that gullible.) Bottom line, we have no idea who this guy is. But he was the same guy that was bartending at the party earlier. And he’s the same guy that they almost hit at the end of the movie. Bottom line, we are left with two possible theories. No more, no less.
Martha Marcy May Marlene Theory 1
The first theory is simple enough. Our Chris Hemsworth guy? He’s real. And he was one of the lesser known members of the cult. They traced the phone call, and came and found her. And this guy? He is there either to take Marcy May back… or kill her. We already know that they don’t want people knowing they exist. That’s why they killed the man in the house. Right? So that is a fairly plausible ending.
Martha Marcy May Marlene Theory 2
The second theory is similarly clear cut. Our Chris Hemsworth? He doesn’t exist. Literally, he isn’t there. Martha has imposed a face she knows on the bartender. Her brain has placed a man on the docks. And the near accident on the way to the facility? Just a coincidence. But you know what that means right? She is literally insane. But, is that such a stretch? We know for a fact that she is complicit in murder. She continues to cover for Patrick and their evil group. She has yet to admit to herself that what happened was a horrible evil inflicted upon her. She continues to carry Patrick’s compliments as badge of honor.
Martha Marcy May Marlene Theory 3
This theory is 100% genius, and it was all my idea! No, this literally is me missing the most brilliant and most perfect answer for the ending anomalies that I couldn’t understand. I was so focused on a literal take on the script, that I totally missed the really scary, and perfect explanation for the movie’s ending:
“Oh brother, here’s a very dark Theory 3 (which may better explain Olsen’s differing facial reaction in the final scene & slight departure from the original script): MMMM is still an active cult member & offers up her rich sister and bro-in-law for that “next level” Mansion-like murder which happens while the credits are rolling. Now, you are really scared – right?
So what Clay is saying here is that MMMM has infiltrated her sisters home in order to offer up the home, the money, their lives. That Marcy May never actually ran away. Well, maybe she did, but she was quickly pulled back in off screen, and enticed back. And instead of just leaving, the cult arrives just in time to sacrifice Marcy May’s sister and brother. Brilliant. Great job Clay. Personally way better than the other two options I put on the table.
But What Do You Think It Is MAN!?
I just went looking, and it seems like most think that the cult is coming to get her. And I don’t agree. We know for a fact that she hasn’t made any progress (and by any, I mean, ZERO) towards recovering from her trauma. She isn’t talking about it. She’s still defending it. And her past memories and current memories are blurring together worse and worse as time goes by. I also don’t think that Patrick and crew have the ability to trace a number after it’s called the house. They have a phone, on the wall, for heaven’s sake. So no. I don’t think Theory 1 is what happened. But sure, is it still plausible? Of course. You are just wrong if you think that’s the case! hahahaha.
I’m sure there are 27 more theories that could help explain this movie, but these are the two most obvious theories we have. What is your theory for what happened in the movie Martha, Marcy May Marlene? I’d love to hear your thoughts.