Away From Herself...
Martha has been gone for a very long time. The one who took her place was a much more gullible and subservient young woman named Marcy May. It cannot be denied that she was very happy in her dazed, obedient bliss. To obtain this, she had to stretch her mind wide open for Patrick – her teacher, leader, and lover. This fifty-year-old man renamed her. “Marcy May” sounds more rustic and appropriate for her to stay in the Catskill Mountains, an unspoiled plantation that Patrick rules. It is the promise of this open land that awed the first settlers of America. Martha seeks this promise, lives the dream, and eventually wakes up trapped inside of a nightmare.
The movie begins as Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) escapes the cult one day. The fragments of her original identity are scattered and lost in the recesses of her molded mind. Upon further reflection of writer-director Sean Durkin’s insidious character study Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011), it is a miracle that she even remembers the phone number that belongs to her older sister, Lucy (Sarah Paulson). Martha takes refuge in a small town that she could not place on a map. A visual tell that grounds us geographically is an American flag drooping in the cold, which is seen out of focus behind Martha as she makes that pay phone call.
After a three-hour drive, Martha settles in a large vacation home that belongs to Lucy and her well-to-do husband, Ted (Hugh Dancy). Instead of a member of the family, she feels like a visitor. Some families don’t know how to go beyond the polite obligation of having to take in one of their own. Martha suffers greatly from existential angst as well as guilt, depression, confusion, and bottles up a deep rage she cannot direct. Lucy is torn between concern and irritation. After all, Martha is so irresponsible to have gone off the map for two years without calling. Surely, she must have had a ball while shirking off college along with her future opportunities.