I went to the cinema last week and, because of the lateness of my arrival, had a limited choice: Carnage or Martha Marcy May Marlene (or 4M, as I shall henceforth refer to it. Judging by Rol's review I probably would have enjoyed the former very much. However, I went for the latter... and am very glad I did, to the extent that although it is only February I might have already seen my film of the year.
4M starts innocently enough - a young girl seems to be living a simple life in some sort of quasi-Amish agrarian commune in the Catskill's that might seem a bit odd to the casual observer but not really much more odd than, for example, the actual Amish might to the average 21st Century Westerner. But then our protagonist, who we come to think of as Martha, Marcy May or Marlene depending on the context, makes a break. She literally escapes the commune. What's going on?
Martha, an entirely convincing and scarily good Elizabeth Olsen (pictured), is quickly rescued by her estranged sister and from there two stories are told in parallel: Martha's struggle to adapt to conventional life and, in flashback, her time in the commune as Marcy May (and, on the phone, Marlene). And it's those flashbacks that make this film so effective, the way the story is delicately paid out. As you might expect, bad things happened in the commune. Very bad things indeed. I won't spoil the film for you here with any more detail than that, but what I will say is this. I like an FX-laden adventure fest as much as the next man. But I also love films that deliver a story at a slower pace, letting the viewer interpret without jump-cuts and excessive dialogue being imposed. 4M is just one such film - it tells a difficult story in its own way, at its own pace, and is all the better for it. Oh, and Elizabeth Olsen is nothing short of a revelation, giving a powerhouse performance - no mean feat, especially considering that she is on-screen for just about the whole time.
And the ending caught pretty much the whole of Screen 3 at my local picture house on the hop, including me, which can only be a good thing.
Here's the trailer - now go and see the damned film (you don't get that from Claudia Winkleman, do you?). Oh, and you'll be able to buy it on Amazon before you know it too.