Cert – PG, Run-time – 1 hour 30 minutes, Director – Dean Fleischer Camp
Marcel (Jenny Slate) lives in an Airbnb with his grandmother (Isabella Rossellini), when a documentarian (Dean Fleischer Camp) renting the house makes a film about him, the tiny shell begins to search for his missing family.
“Guess why I smile a lot” says Marcel (Jenny Slate), a tiny shell turning around to the camera operated by the documentarian (Dean Fleischer Camp) who is making a film about him. “Why?”, “Because it’s worth it”. It’s such a small line and yet one of the most wholesome moments of an irresistibly wholesome film. In many ways it sums up the innocent figure of the titular character rather perfectly. He’s fascinated by the giant world around him, living in an Airbnb with his grandmother (Isabella Rossellini), travelling around via tennis ball – although not being able to see whilst driving is an issue. Questions to the meant-to-be-invisible filmmaker are filled with interest as he quizzes the human renting the house as to “have you ever eaten a raspberry? And what was that like?”
Yet, there’s plenty working in the background of Marcel The Shell With Shoes on to push emotion through the wholesomeness. Over time we see the one-eyed mollusc begin to search for his missing family, seemingly taken in the break-up of the original owners of the house. It’s less a plot and more a set of developments over the course of the short 90 minute run-time. Yet, one which holds you firmly in place as you sit and stare at the screen in wonderment, entranced in the story that’s being told. You buy into the mockumentary format, so detailed that you totally buy into the shells and they might as well be real figures in a real documentary.
With all the details that come through in the characters and the various instances we see them in, including in the animation, one thing is made clear and that’s that director Fleischer Camp, alongside co-writers Slate and Nick Paley, has made a film that celebrates the small details. Both within the film and in life. The quiet elements – in what is a very quiet film, although frequently backed by a fantastic score from Disasterpiece which accompanies many scenes perfectly – which connect us more to the characters and help to get across the sentimentality amongst the humorous patches. Simple cuts, edits and glimpses which show the world as it truly may be, or rather against how Marcel sees it. There may be a handful of chuckles along the way, alongside audible exclamations at just how wholesome and innocent the central character, and the film as a whole, is, but there’s certainly a fair deal of unexpected emotion and sentimentality on display too. All gelling together for an even greater overall effect.
Within the first few minutes you’re sat wrapped in the blanket that the film places around you. Utterly entranced by its gentleness and heart as a warm, fond smile appears on your face on multiple occasions. All of this from the heart and mind of a tiny shell with shoes on called Marcel. Yes, he’s thrown into the chaos of the world and we see the worries and stresses that he faces, in many ways it’s what makes his positivity more effective when it’s on display. But, regardless, he’s absolutely sure to be one of the best characters to grace the big screen this year in one of the best films of the year. A stunningly warm slice of wholesome joy. You can’t help by fall for and into it as you’re swept up into believing that the shells on the screen are actually real. A calm stirring of care and emotions, it’s just fantastic.
Perhaps one of the smallest characters we’ll see this year emits one of the biggest hearts, there’s so much to love about the tone and style of Marcel The Shell With Shoes On. A film which celebrates the small, subtle details and makes for what may be the most wholesome film of the year.