By Michelle Castillo
(Credit: Fox Searchlight)
(CBS) The reviews are in for "Martha Marcy May Marlene," and many critics are lauding the lead actresses' star performance.
Elizabeth Olsen, the younger sister of Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, stars in the psychological thriller about a woman who returns home after escaping an abusive cult. The film, which also includes performances by John Hawkes, Sarah Paulson, and Hugh Dancy, was directed by first-time feature filmmaker and screenwriter Sean Durkin.
The film was screened at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and was an official selection at Cannes this year.
While Olsen has been acting in minor roles since the age of four, "Martha Marcy May Marlene" is the first of three movies this year that she is starring in. She already has won the Calvin Klein Collection Emerging Star award at Elle's Women in Hollywood 2011.
"The story hinges on a believable lead performance, and Olsen is mesmerizing in her first film role," Claudia Puig from USA Today wrote in her review of the film. "She starts out wide-eyed and vulnerable and eventually assumes the look of a captive, communicating raw paranoia with subtle gestures."
"Elizabeth Olsen gives a sensational performance in a gripping psychological thriller," Peter Travers from Rolling Stone echoed.
Many people are attributing Olsen's strong presence on screen to the skills of Durkin. The director formed a filmmaking collective with his NYU classmates Antonio Campos and Josh Mond, called Borderline Films. He said in an interview with Cinema Blend that the three split duties within the company so they each have time to work on their individual projects. More importantly, the director always has complete control over the final version of the film.
"Durkin -- remarkably, making his first feature -- specializes not in apocalyptic grandeur but in the creak and the tinkle of the uncanny," Anthony Lane from the New Yorker praised.
"Martha Marcy May Marlene" opens in limited release on Oct. 21, 2011.