(out of 5)
Riveting, exceptional melodrama about a young woman surviving the effects of a cult-like commune in upstate New York. Elizabeth Olsen gives a superb performance as a young woman who runs away from her extended family and takes refuge with her bewildered sister (Sarah Paulson) to whom she hasn’t spoken in years. Staying at their summer home with Paulson’s new husband (Hugh Dancy), Olsen frustrates the couple with her aloof behavior and strange emotional detachment, flashing back frequently to her days of living with a group of people whose behaviour is revealed to be more of a dangerous cult under a wickedly charismatic leader (John Hawkes) than any kind of attempt at hippie love. Every scene is absorbing and subtle, so that even when the plot reaches for some melodramatic extremes it is wholly acceptable thanks to such intelligent direction by newcomer Sean Durkin and terrific acting from the entire cast. Paulson has never been more intense, and Dancy brings a wonderful level of sympathetic rage to the role of a man trying his best to be accommodating but unable to see why he should forgive this strange woman who has taken over his previously quiet life. Most piercing is the imposing Hawkes, once again filling the scary Man in The Mountains role but with even more bewitching seductiveness than he had in Winter’s Bone. This one is good to the last drop.
Directed by Sean Durkin
Screenplay by Sean Durkin
Cinematography by Jody Lee Lipes
Production Design by Chad Keith
Costume Design by David Tabbert
Film Editing by Zachary Stuart-Pontier