Martha Marcy May Marlene (15)
Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) is an emotionally damaged young woman, who thought she had found sanctuary with Patrick (John Hawkes) and his flock in the Catskills Mountains. Instead, she is indoctrinated into a cult that sexually abuses the female members and breaks into homes, stealing food and money from the unsuspecting owners. After two years of captivity, Martha decides to break free of her emotional shackles and flees the compound, calling her estranged sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) and architect brother-in-law Ted (Hugh Dancy) for help. They spirit her to their plush home and Martha nervously re-assimilates into her new surroundings putting a strain on the relationship between Lucy and Ted. Just as Martha begins to relax, she senses that the cult may be watching her, preparing to take her back into the fold, with force if necessary. Martha Marcy May Marlene is a riveting low-budget thriller about an outcast struggling to wriggle free of the clutches of an abusive clan that does not take kindly to defectors. Olsen delivers a mesmerising lead performance that deserved inclusion on this year’s Oscars shortlist, taking us inside the troubled mind of a confused disciple, who is riven by paranoia.
Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan) is powerless to help his bed-ridden mother (Bo Petersen) fight the terminal illness that has stripped away her dignity. He suffers in silence, weathering the beatings from his alcoholic father (Michael Kelly) and persistent bullying at school. Late one night, Andrew, his cousin Matt (Alex Russell) and high school golden boy Steve (Michael B Jordan) discover a strange artefact in a crater. Soon after, they are blessed with powers of flight, telekinesis and invulnerability. At first, the students employ the new-found abilities for laddish amusement. However, once Andrew’s deep-seated rage takes control of his powers, it’s only a matter of time before darkness envelops him. Chronicle is an impressive sci-fi thriller, which imagines the catastrophic consequences for three friends when they are gifted incredible mental and physical skills. Director Josh Trank opens through the lens of an old-fashioned video camera that Andrew has just purchased, establishing a verité stylistic conceit, which works extremely well for the final showdown when the film cuts quickly between Andrew’s video recording, mobile phones, CCTV and police helicopter surveillance. Visual effects are largely polished although some do not meld seamlessly with the live action. Max Landis’s script wrong-foots us on several occasions, while performances from the largely unknown cast are uniformly strong, led by DeHaan as the dutiful son, who learns to his cost that with great power comes great irresponsibility.
Like Crazy (12)
British exchange student Anna (Felicity Jones) falls head over heels in love with talented design student Jacob (Anton Yelchin) during her time in Los Angeles. She exceeds the length of her visa to fan the flames of romance but after Anna returns home to her parents (Oliver Muirhead and Alex Kingston), US immigration subsequently refuses her re-entry, forcing the young couple to conduct their relationship from different continents. The lovebirds eventually marry but the distance between them takes its toll and Jacob seeks comfort in the arms of Sam (Jennifer Lawrence), while Anna starts a relationship with Simon (Charlie Bewley). Perhaps their love was never destined to be… Falling in love is just as frighteningly easy as falling out again in Drake Doremus’s beautifully naturalistic romance that will strike a chord with anyone who has taken that leap of faith and risked their heart. His film is anchored by mesmerising performances from Jones and Yelchin, who improvise the painful truths that sometimes lurk in silences and lay themselves bare as their characters are dragged through the emotional mire. On-screen chemistry sizzles – we believe completely in their attraction – and there are some lovely verbal exchanges and scenes of intimacy. Doremus’s camera remains close to the characters, providing us with a piercing insight to their feelings as expectation turns to joy, or nervous anticipation becomes crushing despair.