[Film review] Marcel: The Shell With Shoes On


Review by Michele E. Hawkins.

Marcel (Jenny Slate), a young shell, lives with his grandmother, Connie (Isabella Rossellini), in a beautiful human house that would appear to now be devoid of owners.  Naturally, being only a few centimetres tall, the home and its furnishings are not Marcel- and Connie-sized or fit for their needs, calling for imaginative adaptations.  Marcel makes the most of everything and enjoys life, but he misses the rest of his family, who, along with the rest of his community, vanished one traumatic night.

Dean (Dean Fleischer-Camp), a human who has come to stay in the house, becomes Marcel’s confidante and, with Marcel’s permission, documents Marcel’s life on video.  Marcel shares with Dean how his daily life works, the innovations that allow him to meet the challenges imposed by size, how the rhythms of the seasons bring beauty to their lives, and how he and Grandmother Connie celebrate what they have.  And he tells Dean about his family and their inexplicable disappearance, lamenting never having had the chance to say goodbye to them.

Dean regularly uploads his videos of Marcel to the Internet, and Marcel soon has a huge fan base, but neither of them imagines what will follow.

Marcel: The Shell With Shoes On is a quiet, thoughtful film.  Though relating the perspective of another species, its strength lies in its universality.  Marcel and Connie are us, writ tiny.  They too live with life’s inevitable, and sometimes painful, changes and challenges, along with its surprises, beauty, and opportunities.  This is a positive, gentle film about the power of gratitude and imagination and our potential, no matter what huge things outside ourselves confront us, to live rich, fulfilling, inventive lives.  It offers a view beyond the mundane but necessary in our lives to the simple beauties and pleasures all around us that we can so easily overlook, and it’s a poignant reminder of what really matters to us and why it does.

Screening at Dendy and Palace cinemas.

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