Marcel the Shell with Shoes On is an American live-action/stop-motion animation film directed by Dean Fleischer Camp. The film was co-written by Fleischer Camp with Jenny Slate, Nick Paley, and Elisabeth Holm, and distributed by A24.
Marcel [Jenny Slate] is a little shell who lives with Nana Connie [Isabella Rossellini] in an Airbnb. Filmmaker Dean [Fleischer Camp] rents the property and begins making short videos with Marcel, showcasing his daily life, brilliant innovations, and droll sense of humour.
The film takes place after a mysterious tragedy Marcel and Connie underwent, and as Dean builds a relationship with the shells, their story begins to take shape. Although the characters are small in stature, they have engaging personalities and you find yourself want to learn more about the little creatures. Of course, they are ridiculously cute too which got me invested in their lives straightaway.
The comedy-drama film follows a loose mockumentary format, with filmmaker Dean behind the camera for much of the duration. Although it’s not particularly original, this structure works well for the narrative and makes sense within the story.
Visually, the style of the film is quite simple, with most of the shots being interior. This serves not only to showcase the shells, but a lot of humour comes from the familiar environment. The colour palette makes use of light, muted colours, and the often used soft focus gives the film a lovely, dreamlike quality. The stop-motion animal is simple but effective, with each still of the film looking composed.
The original score, written by Disasterpeace, although many tracks are from Japanese musician and composer Hiroshi Yoshimura. You can hear quite a lot of the beautifully timed percussion beats heard in Japanese music, along with slightly more modern undertones in what ultimately becomes an ambient soundtrack. Overall, the delicate soundtrack matches the nature of these little shells, furthering the dreamlike atmosphere.
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On looks at several complex issues, and for a film chiefly about a one-inch-tall shell, it feels very human. Dealing with aspects of community, grief, and loneliness, the film doesn’t portray these themes through overly artistic gestures, it is what it is and I appreciate the simplicity in its storytelling.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching Marcel, and although it’s only February, I wouldn’t be worried to say I think it may be my favourite of the films I’ve watched and will watch this year. Beautifully made, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On is a compassionate masterpiece, and as entertaining as it is heartfelt. The dialogue is delightful, and the characters are developed, leaving the viewer with a real sense of attachment to the little creatures.
I would recommend this film to everybody. Its humanity is universal, and I think most people would relate to it in some way. Joyful, moving, and it’s definitely the best film about molluscs I’ve ever seen.
Final rating: 10/10
Marcel with Shell with Shoes On is available to be imported now from A24.
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