Help me find more movies like Martha Marcy May Marlene.
May 24, 2012 10:40 PM   Subscribe

I haven't seen anything like Martha Marcy May Marlene in a long time, if ever. Please recommend more movies I'll like as much.

I watched Martha Marcy May Marlene last night, and was totally enthralled and haunted by it. A couple of the movies mentioned on the IMDB page I linked suggest The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Black Swan as 'people who liked this also liked', but I've seen both and neither did much for me. (We Need to Talk About Kevin, which I haven't seen, looks very promising.)

A couple of the elements I really liked: the beautiful cinematography, the fascinating subject matter, the simplicity and lack of special effects or glitz, and the unresolved ending. I've also read that the writer/director chose to leave aspects of the story and the characters' motivations open to the viewer's interpretation, which I like, and find pretty rare.

Please suggest other movies I would enjoy as much as I did this one. Thanks!
posted by smilingtiger to Media & Arts (31 answers total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
Jesus' Son
All the Real Girls
Winter's Bone
posted by miles1972 at 11:53 PM on May 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Breaking the Waves
The Sweet Hereafter
The Rapture
Days of Heaven
Crimes and Misdemeanors
Notes on a Scandal
posted by marsha56 at 12:13 AM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

See La Mujer sin Cabeza (The Headless Woman) by Argentinian director Lucrecia Martel. Seriously.
posted by ouke at 12:16 AM on May 25, 2012

I loved Martha Marcy May Marlene too. Aspects of the film reminded me of Todd Haynes's Safe, Mallick's Badlands, and Haneke's Cache.

[As an aside, Sean Durkin's next project is apparently going to be a ten-part TV adaptation of The Exorcist. So you have that to look forward to.]
posted by hot soup girl at 12:37 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

get on that We Need to Talk About Kevin asap.
posted by dogwalker at 1:57 AM on May 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

Morvern Callar.
posted by Lieber Frau at 4:16 AM on May 25, 2012

I Am Love has most, if not all of the elements you mention.
posted by seriousmoonlight at 4:16 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I found Keane a really strange, mysterious film. I haven't seen MMMM yet, but it definitely has an open-ended story where it isn't always clear whose perspective is correct. From memory, it's shot in a docusoap sort of style, so it might not have perfect mise-en-scene, but the style is very simple and natural.
posted by mippy at 4:25 AM on May 25, 2012

Picnic at Hanging Rock
posted by rabidsegue at 5:10 AM on May 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

wendy & lucy
old joy
meek's cutoff
(all directed by kelly reichardt)
posted by youchirren at 5:31 AM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

I would second Winter's Bone as having a lot of like elements. Also Meek's Cutoff, which is really polarizing but which I thought was totally gorgeous.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 5:35 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I came in to say Wendy & Lucy, Meek's Cutoff, and Winter's Bone. This may be totally out of left field, but also check out Drive.
posted by ChuraChura at 5:48 AM on May 25, 2012

The director's influences:

"Rosemary’s Baby" is my main inspiration. It encompasses everything I’d like to achieve in filmmaking. It's such a precise film, it is perfectly directed and beautifully shot. It's simultaneously frightening and entertaining and always maintains a dash of humor. It doesn't scare you with cheap scares, it frightens you by going deep into her physiological experience. The fact that he creates one of the most chilling moments in film history with the simple rearrangement of 13 scrabble letters says it all. The other film is Altman’s "3 Women." I love the characters. They’re so specific and odd, always talking but never communicating. They’re such rich, complicated women yet so simplistic at the same time. The film creates a specific, original, atmosphere that I admire, It doesn’t have a structure that we’re used to seeing. It’s not strictly narrative, you just get lost in the experience of it.
posted by Smallpox at 6:23 AM on May 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

Two obscure films fit your criteria perfectly: 1. Ruby in Paradise, starring Ashley Judd, a great picture that nobody's ever heard of. 2. Bright Angel, with Lili Taylor and a young Dermot Mulroney. They may be hard to find, though.

Upthread someone cited Winter's Bone, directed by Debra Granik, and I'll add her earlier Down to the Bone (similar title, completely unrelated film). And one more similar, though not by Granik, is Frozen River.

Then there's Altman's Three Women, which everyone should see no matter what your Ask is.
posted by scratch at 6:48 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding Frozen River.
posted by Dolley at 6:51 AM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Sound of My Voice, which was recently released in theaters and will be on DVD soon, is similar both in tone and subject matter. It's excellent.
posted by eugenen at 7:10 AM on May 25, 2012

Ahhh, Martha Marcy was so good.

Some more:

The Virgin Suicides
Another Earth
Melancholia - not an ambiguous ending, but that same dreamy quality coupled with beautiful cinematography
Take Shelter
Tree of Life
A Serious Man
White Ribbon
Synechdoche, NY
Swimming Pool
Higher Ground

And, it's not exactly the same style, but All Good Things kind of reminds me of it, if only because of the lake setting. It's still great.
posted by theuninvitedguest at 7:22 AM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'd classify these movies as good looking, simple story, well told, with complex characters...

Atonement (07 Wright)
Breaking Away (79 Yates)
Character (97 van Diem)
Diggers (06 Dieckmann)
Dirty Pretty Things (02 Frears)
Eastern Promises (07 Cronenberg)
Elevator to the Gallows (58 Malle)
Expired (07 Miniucchi)
Frozen River (08 Hunt)
In America (02 Sheridan)
In Bruges (08 McDonagh)
The Lives of Others (06 von Donnersmarck)
Man on the Train (02 Leconte)
Panic (00 Bromell)
Proof (91 Moorhouse)
Rabbit-Proof Fence (02 Noyce)
The Straight Story (99 Lynch)
What Happened Was... (94 Noonan)
Zandy's Bride (74 Troell)
posted by dgeiser13 at 7:39 AM on May 25, 2012

Breaking Away is very different to the criteria outlaid here - it's got a very clear-cut story with no ambiguity, and has no shades of darkness in its emotional palette. (It's probably my favourite film and I love it, though, so see it anyway.)
posted by mippy at 7:57 AM on May 25, 2012

No one has mentioned Take Shelter yet. Take Shelter.
posted by emelenjr at 8:06 AM on May 25, 2012

There have been a LOT of good movies mentioned so far. How about Certified Copy? The subject matter could not be more different, but it does tick the following boxes:
- the beautiful cinematography (Italian countryside and villages!)
- the simplicity and lack of special effects or glitz (it's pretty much just lots of walking and talking!)
- the unresolved ending (no spoilers here!)
- aspects of the story and the characters' motivations open to the viewer's interpretation (unquestionably)
posted by bcwinters at 8:37 AM on May 25, 2012

Maybe Ozon's Under the Sand, with Charlotte Rampling?
When her husband goes missing at the beach, a female professor begins to mentally disintegrate as her denial of his disappearance becomes delusional.
I also really liked Ozon's Swimming Pool, which is intriguing and mysterious and impenetrable for a while (although the ending is really pat); several of his other films are also good but maybe don't fit your particular criteria.
posted by bcwinters at 8:43 AM on May 25, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you!! I've seen some of these recommendations (Wendy and Lucy, Jesus' Son, Swimming Pool, Ruby in Paradise - one of my favorite films ever) which is really helpful to sort of contextualize the others. I'm really excited to start watching!
posted by smilingtiger at 9:45 AM on May 25, 2012

Before Sunrise and Before Sunset?
posted by chickenmagazine at 10:51 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also Primer, Primer, Primer and Primer.

Seriously, watch Primer.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:58 AM on May 25, 2012

Wow, wow, I love movies like this too! (Especially Ruby in Paradise.) Never sure how to articulate it exactly. I see that someone else recommended Tree of Life, which I haven't seen yet, but Malick's Badlands and Days of Heaven are absolutely gorgeous, powerful, and fascinating. I also tend to really like Ingmar Bergman, but I'm not sure how much overlap there might be there. I also enjoyed Where the Heart Is (also Ashley Judd) and 2 Days in Paris (Julie Delpy, very introspective, lovely, funny picture of life in Paris). Sunshine Cleaning was cute, interesting subject matter, and ended very ambiguously if I remember right.

I also tend to love von Trier, but if you're not a depressive/anxious person... it might hit the wrong nerve. (Or just seem obnoxious.)
posted by stoneandstar at 12:10 PM on May 25, 2012

I've also noted that a lot of movies that fit this description are particularly "literate," often narrated. I'm thinking of Malick and 2 Days in Paris particularly.
posted by stoneandstar at 12:13 PM on May 25, 2012

> Breaking Away...has no shades of darkness in its emotional palette.

I would strongly disagree with you there.
posted by dgeiser13 at 1:45 PM on May 25, 2012

I just thought of one more: What Alice Found.
posted by scratch at 3:59 PM on May 25, 2012

Shame (2011) and Hunger (2008) by new director Steve McQueen are both movies that I think fit all your criteria. Very beautifully shot, interesting subject matter, and skillfully ambiguous. Michael Fassbinder must be drawn to these kinds of movies, actually, because I think Fish Tank (2009) fits your description as well. These are also movies that both film critics and IMDb voters appreciate.

Innocence (2004) also shares a number of elements: cult of young, complicit females; idyllic, dream-like panoramas; haunting ambiguity; gradual, but incomplete, plot-reveal. (but film critics and IMDb voters not so appreciative)

Similar movies that have already been mentioned, but that I'll second: Winter's Bone, Meek's Cutoff, We Need to Talk About Kevin, and Take Shelter.
posted by dgaicun at 3:36 AM on June 2, 2012

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