Margaret is a 2011 American drama film written & directed by Kenneth Lonergan, starring Anna Paquin, Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo, J. Smith-Cameron, Kieran Culkin, Olivia Thirlby, Allison Janney and Matthew Broderick.

The film title refers to a poem by Gerard Manley that is read in the film.


Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about
the entire movie.

A 17-year-old Manhattan student, Lisa Cohen, shopping on the Upper West Side, interacts with bus driver Gerald Maretti as she runs alongside his moving bus; he allows himself to become distracted, leading to a fatal accident by missing a red light, in which a pedestrian, Monica Patterson, is hit by the bus and subsequently dies in Lisa's arms. Initially, Lisa reports to the police that the driver had a green traffic signal, but later, out of remorse, changes her story.

Margaret confronts Maretti, who first pretends to have forgotten the details of the accident, and then reveals to her in anger that he does remember them, but believes he did nothing wrong, causing Lisa to pursue his firing from the company with passion.

In collaboration with Monica's best friend, Emily, and cousin, Abigail, Lisa ultimately becomes involved in a wrongful death lawsuit against the Metropolitan Transit Authority, seeking the dismissal of the driver (who is revealed to have caused two previous accidents), as well as monetary damages, which would be awarded to the victim's next of kin, her cousin.

Meanwhile, Lisa's life takes various turns, including a flirtation with her math teacher, Aaron Caije, her decision to lose her virginity to a classmate, Paul Hirsch and various vehement debates with classmates about politics and terrorism.

Lisa and her actress mother have a rocky relationship, with sporadic fighting and Lisa expressing ambivalence toward her mother's boyfriend Ramon. An after-show dinner, attended by Lisa, her mother, Emily and Ramon, ends with Ramon making a remark perceived as anti-Semitic toward Emily.

Ramon dies of a heart attack not long after. Lisa has sex with Caije, then later confronts Caije, telling him, in the presence of another teacher, that she has had an abortion. She expresses doubt about who the father was and mentions that there are two possibilities.

The lawsuit reaches a conclusion, with an award of $350,000, but the MTA refuses to fire Maretti, out of concern that it would inflame a labor dispute. Abigail claims the settlement offer, revealing the monetary settlement to have been her primary motivation; this causes Lisa to become very upset and disillusioned with the outcome of the case.

Lisa and her mother plan to attend an opera that Ramon and she were to see before his death. On the way, Lisa sees Maretti driving the same bus that had killed the pedestrian and there is a brief moment where the two see each other.

During the opera performance, Lisa's accumulated emotion from the sequence of events bursts out and she and her mother affectionately reconnect, crying together and holding each other as the opera goes on.


  • Anna Paquin as Lisa Cohen
  • Matt Damon as Aaron Caije
  • Mark Ruffalo as Gerald Maretti
  • Kieran Culkin as Paul Hirsch
  • Olivia Thirlby as Monica Sloane
  • Rosemarie DeWitt as Mrs. Marretti
  • J. Smith-Cameron as Joan Cohen
  • Matthew Broderick as John Andrew Van Tassel
  • Allison Janney as Monica Patterson
  • Jean Reno as Ramon Cameron
  • Jeannie Berlin as Emily
  • John Gallagher Jr. as Darren Rodifer
  • Matt Bush as Kurt Masur


"Margaret" was filmed in New York City, New York from September 12th to November 23, 2005. It was scheduled to be released in 2007, but the post-production launched multiple lawsuits causing the release date to be delayed.

In July of 2010, Fox Searchlight films announced the film was completed and scheduled to be released in 2011.


Box OfficeEdit

The movie was given a limited release in theaters with only two venues showing it. It opened at #86 at the box office, grossing $7,525 during its opening weekend. Its widest release was in 14 theaters and closed on October 27, 2011.

Domestically & worldwide, it only made $46,495.

Critical ReceptionEdit

"Margaret" received mostly positive reviews from critics and was given a 75% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 91 reviews with an average rating of 7.1 out of 10.

The critical consensus states: "A surfeit of ideas contributes to Margaret's excessive run time, but Anna Paquin does a admirable job of guiding viewers through emotional hell".

On Metacritic, it was given a score of 61 out of 100 based on 27 critics.

The Washington Post's Ann Hornaday described it as "ambitious, affecting, unwieldy and haunting" and called it "an eccentric, densely atmospheric, morally hyper-aware masterpiece that refuses to follow the strictures of conventional cinematic structure, instead leading the audience on a circuitous journey down the myriad rabbit holes that comprise modern-day Manhattan".

Rolling Stone called it "a film of rare beauty and shocking gravity".

The New York Post's Kyle Smith said, "For a 90-minute movie, Margaret has a thin story. So it's unfortunate that it runs 2 1/2 hours".


2011 Boston Society of Film Critics Awards

  • Best Supporting Actress: Jeannie Berlin (2nd place)
  • Best Ensemble Cast (2nd place)
  • Best Screenplay: Kenneth Lonergan (2nd place)
  • Best Film (2nd place)

2012 Central Ohio Film Critics Association

  • Best Overlooked Film: Kenneth Lonergan (won)

2011 Chicago Film Critics Association Awards

  • Best Actress: Anna Paquin (nominated)

2012 International Cinephile Society Awards

  • Best Actress: Anna Paquin (won)
  • Best Supporting Actress: J. Smith-Cameron (won)
  • Best Picture (nominated)
  • Best Original Screenplay: Kenneth Lonergan (nominated)
  • Best Ensemble (nominated)

2012 London Critics Circle Film Awards

  • Actress of the Year: Anna Paquin (won)
  • Screenwriter of the Year: Kenneth Lonergan (nominated)

2012 National Society of Film Critics Awards, USA

  • Best Supporting Actress: Jeannie Berlin (2nd place)

2011 Village Voice Film Poll

  • Best Actress: Anna Paquin (won)
  • Best Supporting Actress: Jeannie Berlin (won)
  • Best Screenplay: Kenneth Lonergan (won)
  • Best Film (nominated)

Theatrical TrailerEdit

Margaret (2011) Trailer

Margaret (2011) Trailer

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