Marcel The Shell With Shoes On
Cert - PG, Run-time - 1 hour 30 minutes, Director - Dean Fleischer Camp
A documentarian (Dean Fleischer Camp) renting an Airbnb decides to follow a small shell (Jenny Slate) searching for his missing family.
Marcel The Shell With Shoes On is a film which takes delight in celebrating the small details, both of itself and life in general. The titular character (Jenny Slate) resides in an Airbnb with his grandmother (Isabella Rossellini), having been separated from the rest of his family when they were taken away during a break-up. It’s through meeting a documentarian renting the home (Dean Fleischer Camp) that the most wholesome character in years becomes set of reuniting with them.
Yet, there’s plenty more for the film to pack in within its rather light 90-minute run-time. Marcel is an inquisitive figure, constantly breaking form to ask the supposed-to-be-invisible figure behind the camera questions such as “have you ever eaten a raspberry? And what was that like?” It somehow adds to the documentary format which the film presents itself in. The mix of live-action and stop-motion animation is seamless and you genuinely buy into the characters, believing that the shells are actually real. It’s not hard to become utterly entranced in the world of the film and its characters.
This is a film of subtleties working hand-in-hand to create an even greater effect. The quietness which helps to push the emotional nature of certain instances within the ‘developments over plot’ nature of the narrative. Excellently backed by Disasterpiece’s score there’s a lot which simply helps to get across the sentimentality which is present in the personalities we see. The subtle cuts, changed and glimpses to show the world outside of Marcel’s initial view. There may be a number of chuckles - and audible exclamations at just how wholesome and innocent the central character is - but there’s a lot of unexpected emotion and sentimentality on display.
Further helped by the fact that Camp, alongside co-writers Slate and Nick Paley, doesn’t shield the central figure away from stress and worries. He’s thrown into the chaos of the world, only emphasising the positivity more when on display. In general, there’s so much to love about the style and tone of the film, the way in which it communicates with the audience through the interactions we see. All wrapping the viewer in the warm blanket that the film creates in its world where the one-eyed mollusc gets around the house via tennis ball.
“Guess why I smile a lot” Marcel says turning to the camera behind him. “Why?” responds Camp. “Because it’s worth it”. There are plenty of fond smiles to be found within the film about him. An uplifting joy from start to finish, and undoubtedly the most wholesome film since perhaps A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood, Marcel The Shell With Shoes On is an excellently constructed gem displaying as much care and wonder as was clearly put into making it.
Jamie Skinner - Five stars