Open your heart to Marcel

Published 10:54 am Tuesday, September 6, 2022

By Evan Fitch


This week at Tryon Theatre, we have what is arguably the most heartwarming film of the year, “Marcel, The Shell With Shoes On.” This film is a feature adaptation of a 2010 short film, sharing the same title, and made by the same creative duo, Dean Fleischer Camp and Jenny Slate. “Marcel” tells the story of its charming titular character and his search for family. 

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Marcel is a small anthropomorphic shell, with one large googly eye, two tiny shoes, and a heart fit for an elephant, metaphorically, of course. Marcel is discovered when a new renter, Dean (the film’s director), takes up residence in the apartment in which Marcel, and his fellow shell Grandma Connie, have established their microcosm for the past few years. The new tenant is a documentary filmmaker and decides to record the fascinating shell that has entered his life.


In their interactions, Dean learns that Marcel and Connie once were part of a much larger family of shells, from whom they’ve been separated for years. The trio begin posting their recorded conversations online, and to their surprise, find an adoring, and rapidly growing audience. Soon after, the three embark on a quest to locate these other shells, hoping to give Marcel the community for which he has so long pined.


Within this focal journey of the film emerge many opportunities for conversation and interaction, through all of which Marcel shares a sincere and compassionate outlook on the world. The kindness and understanding with which he approaches every experience conveys the earnestness of a child and the emotional wisdom of an elder, but this quality is not isolated to simply Marcel alone. The film overall reflects the ethos of its eponymous character. “Marcel” is warm, hopeful, and infinitely charming. 


The beauty of the film is born not only from the message and character but also from its artistry. To bring the miniscule character of Marcel and his small world to life, Camp, the film’s director, utilizes stop motion animation. This stop motion animation is combined seamlessly with real-world footage, as the animated characters share the screen with actual people and natural environments. In doing so, each frame is imbued with a beautiful painterly and dreamlike quality. 


In terms of tone, “Marcel” is more poignant than comedic, despite the animated form, but within the film’s poignancy there do exist many moments of levity, providing a great balance of humor and depth. For any filmgoer who desires to feel uplifted and inspired to be kinder, “Marcel” will be well worth your time, and well worth the possible tears. We hope to see you there!