REVIEW: Moving mockumentary will melt your heart

February 22nd, 2023 10:53 AM

By Dylan Mangan

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NOBODY has ever noticed Marcel before. 

People come and go from the AirBnb he calls home without ever seeing him, let alone talking to him.

That changes one day when documentary filmmaker Dean moves in for a prolonged period of time and discovers him among a pile of clutter.

Marcel is a tiny, 1-inch-tall, shoe-wearing shell who — along with his Nana Connie — is the only resident of his town following his family’s mysterious disappearance.

Dean starts filming Marcel in his daily life, documenting his thoughts and how he has learned to survive without the community he so craves.

Their home used to be a bustling hive of activity and laughter. It’s now empty but for two lonely shells who learn to fend for themselves and dream of reconnecting with their loved ones some day.

As Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania takes box offices by storm, we wanted to focus on another tiny character who you should be seeking out on the big screen.

Marcel The Shell With Shoes On (taking the title of most aptly-named film from last week's review, A Man Called Otto) is based on a series of short films about the same character, created by and starring Dean Fleischer Camp and Jenny Slate.

Both reprise their roles here - Jenny as Marcel and Dean as, well, Dean - and both are central to everything that makes this film so good.

Outside of the film, Slate and Fleischer Camp were married for a time. They separated but continued to work together, and you can see many of the problems they had to overcome permeate the film as well.

Dean is staying at this AirBnb following a separation and is lost, looking for a way to reconnect with himself and the world around him.

Marcel becomes his passion.

Through filming they form a friendship, even if Marcel thinks he doesn't know what a documentary is.

'It's like a movie but nobody has any lines and nobody even knows what it is while they're making it,' he says, nailing it.

The filmmakers balance brilliant little bits of insight and more revealing, emotional thoughts perfectly. We learn so much about Marcel just from how he thinks about the world, or doesn't.

Marcel's outlook on life is both hilarious and inspiring. He is a curious soul, like a child who questions everything from life's big problems all the way down to why

There's also space in this silly little film too for commentary on social media and celebrity culture.

Dean uploads a video of Marcel which goes viral. Groups of people show up at the house to film TikToks and to try to glean any sort of social capital that might come from being even vaguely related to his story.

He longs to be reunited with his family but has no idea where to find them. He has an almost annoyingly positive demeanour but concedes that he does find his mind wandering and wondering where they could be.

Underneath it all, he's scared. He's learned to survive and protect his Nana Connie but while he yearns for his family, he is also terrified of change.

The film transitions seamlessly from whimsical and cute to emotional and cutting, often in the space of minutes as Dean films more and more of the two tiny shells.

It is upsetting in just the right way, but even in his darkest moments Marcel remains positive.

'Guess why I smile a lot?' he asks Dean.


'Uh, because it's worth it.'


Read our catalogue of reviews here.

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