SIFF 2022: Marcel the Shell with Shoes On

Directed by: Dean Fleischer-Camp
Distributed by: A24

Written by Taylor Baker


In Dean Fleischer-Camp’s full-length adaptation of his previous series of shorts (which is also his feature film debut), he drowns audiences in a carefully constructed experience of delicately controlled emotion. Reminiscent of A24’s “Eighth Grade” in 2018, Fleisher-Camp has created a film that branches from the hearts of minds of children to adults—speaking down to neither and navigating its narrative in such a specific way to not only make it universal but nearly timeless. Jenny Slate’s voice performance as Marcel leaves the audience hanging on her every word, tearing up and laughing in perfect synchronicity with her intonations.

It’s a rare artist that can simultaneously erupt a crowd of adults into tears and cause other members to audibly sob for minutes on end while the rest of us chuckle while we’re each feeling and processing the same experience. Dean’s simultaneous sweetness paired with his focus on loss and the things that really matter to us, relationships, exemplifies the pain against the saccharine. We’re introduced to Marcel when Dean’s character Dean rents the house Marcel lives in from AirBNB, upon discovering the living shell he begins documenting what Marcel does every day, think “The Office” or “Parks and Recreation” but with direct narration from the embedded film crew, in this case, single crew member, Dean.

Before Dean had rented the house Marcel lived there with a large community and his family. There was a fight one night between the couple that lived in the house, and everyone but his grandmother Nana Connie (Isabella Rosselini) was accidentally taken out of the house in a suitcase. With Dean’s help, Marcel sets off on a quest to try and find his community and family again, while showing Dean how to appreciate the most beautiful and meaningful things in life. Like ice skating on a dusty coffee table. “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” is among the unique pieces of cinema that conjure an emotionality when you remember them, it’s a film you feel before you think when recalling it and it’s a beautiful reminder of what’s possible in the medium. If Dean chooses to continue down the road of filmmaking (or television) he may well develop into a must-watch artist. Sincerity and craftsmanship of this form are uncommon, and “Marcel” will undoubtedly become a cult classic character and gem in A24’s crown for decades to come.

“Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” Trailer

“Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” was screened as part of the 2022 edition of the Seattle International Film Festival.

You can follow more of Taylor’s thoughts on film on LetterboxdTwitter, and Rotten Tomatoes.

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