Secrets, cults, and mind control.

Mary as: Claire
Genre: Drama | Crime | Comedy
Director: Riley Stearns
Other Cast: Leland Orser, Chris Ellis, Lance Reddick, Jon Gries, Leonard Earl Howze
Release Date: March 6, 2015
Production Budget:
Total Worldwide Gross:
Filming Locations: Los Angeles, California

Claire is under the grip of a mysterious cult. Desperate to be reunited with their daughter, Claire’s parents set out to recruit Ansel Roth, one of the world’s foremost authorities on mind control. But Ansel’s specialty, deprogramming cult members and returning them to their families, is not an exact science. Now, even his own book publisher is looking to break his legs. Ansel kidnaps Claire, who reveals herself to be a formidable challenge; her belief is unshakeable and her logic is undeniable. A battle of wits develops between the two as they delve deeper and deeper into each others minds.

Production Info

Filmed in chronological order over just 19 days.

Quoting: Mary Elizabeth Winstead

On researching the role: I started researching a lot of cults and reading as much as I could about, you know, people who had written books after they had gotten out of a cult and what it was like being indoctrinated into a cult, and then also the process of leaving a cult. I did a little bit of research on that, and then sort of jumped into reading about cult leaders and getting as much information about that as I could as well. And that’s when I really started to click into who she was ultimately, but it was good to sort of go through all of those layers because she is all of those different people at different points throughout the film. I kind of had to go through all those different paths.

On the biggest challenge of the role: I think Leland [Orser] and I both were pretty intimidated by the scene toward the end in the bathroom because that was like, a twelve-pager, which was one of the longest scenes I’ve ever had to do. I think it was the same for Leland. It just goes so many places emotionally and gets so intense, so I think that was really daunting for us both. We shot mostly chronological, so that kind of keeps it toward the end, so every day we were like, “Well, at least it’s not the bathroom scene!” Like, oh, this is a tough scene, but at least it’s not that one. We kept just kind of joking about it, so when that day came we were just like, oh god, here we go. It was so much fun to do, but it was incredibly intense and I had to slap the shit out of Leland. Because he asked me to! And so I did. It was definitely an intense scene, but so rewarding to actually see on screen because I feel like it just came out so well, and I think Leland’s brilliant in it. It’s awesome to get to to have those kind of tough scenes and feel like they came out okay.

On becoming part of the film: Riley told me the idea for it and I loved the idea. And then every ten pages or so he would kind of show it to me, and for the first thirty pages or so, my character doesn’t come into it at all, but I immediately loved it. I was like, this is going to be an amazing movie and I can’t wait to see what role I’m going to be playing in it and what it’s going to be like. It was always kind of understood that I would play it, although when I started reading it I wasn’t really sure if I was the right person for it, and I would get worried about that. But I kind of just trusted him in that he trusted me, and I kind of had to have faith in him, and it all worked out.

Critical Response

Eric Kohn, Indiewire: Delivering an icy, cryptic performance that ranks among her best — and exists a world apart from her role as a messy alcoholic in Smashed — Winstead’s frequently inscrutable expression epitomizes this unique movie’s enigmatic appeal.

William Goss, The Playlist: Winstead, gives yet another fragile, commanding performance as a young woman caught between oppressive parents, a well-meaning captor and her own brainwashed persona.

David Ehrlich, Time Out New York: A tense two-handed dark comedy prone to feverish inflections of Lynchian madness, Stearns’s film feels as fluid and shifting as Claire herself, its tone following the lead set by Winstead’s performance. Winstead is one of the most intuitive actors of her generation, and though her impressive range is easy to spot, it’s her elasticity that makes her so rewarding to watch. Whether she’s playing a blue-haired dream girl or an alcoholic schoolteacher, each of her roles feels convincingly equidistant from a mutual core, lending them all a shared sense of truth. Claire allows Winstead to weaponize that remarkable plasticity; as the actor jumps from wounded victim to defiant believer at the drop of a hat, it becomes increasingly clear that Faults (directed by Winstead’s husband and biggest fan) has been custom-fit for her talents.

Andy Webster, New York Times: The performances attain a fine harmony, Mr. Orser’s harried, disheveled aspect — sometimes hapless, sometimes honorable — balancing with the often cool, assured bearing of Ms. Winstead, who is the wife of Mr. Stearns and, unsurprisingly, the screenplay’s chief beneficiary.

Keith Phipps, The Dissolve: Even when Claire is breaking down, Winstead’s assured, enigmatic performance keeps suggesting she has something to conceal.