Marcel the Shell with Shoes On


 You’ll notice that this isn’t a video game - assuming that at this point in time, I’ve kept up the charade that this blog is mostly used to chronicle my thoughts on video games. But what I really want this blog to be is a landing point for my feelings - a place where I can articulate the feelings something evokes in me and how those feelings inspire my own art - and I’ve just seen this movie, and I really want to talk about it.

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On is a stop motion animated mockumentary that showcases the titular character’s life from the perspective of an amateur filmmaker. I didn’t really know anything about the film other than the title and the medium when I stepped into the cinema - and I think that endearing mystery kind of led me to falling in love with the movie even more?

This movie, right off the bat, plays with two of my favourite narrative devices - mockumentaries… and being really dang small. Ever since I first watched Parks and Recreation I’ve been obsessed with the mockumentary format - it’s so subtly expert at being both a device for comedy and genuine character building. It’s a format that bridges the gap between writing and script - allowing the audience to directly hear the character’s thoughts presented in ways that wouldn’t really make any sense. In this scenario, whilst it obviously makes sense with the movie’s premise, it also works so well at creating a supremely intimate space. There are things Marcel says through the voice over in this movie that wouldn’t function as character dialogue without being incredibly pretentious - but mockumentaries sort of remove that barrier, and let us hear Marcel’s inner thoughts when contextually relevant, therefore inviting the audience in. This movie is so cosy and warm and yet spacious because the perspective gives the audience space to think in the confessional silence, and react along with the characters.

With regards to the tiny viewpoint of the movie, I think my adoration for that came with one of my greatest gaming loves: Pikmin. This whole movie exudes my favourite aspects of the world-building in Pikmin, actually! In those games, you play as a tiny astronaut exploring an abandoned Earth, investigating and trying to make use of what once was human. Whilst the scenario of Marcel is way less grim, it hits very similar vibes. It allows us, the audience, to see what we interact with on a daily basis in a completely different way - flowerpots becoming gardens, staircases becoming parkour challenges. Marcel takes this idea and lathers it with a light, fluffy coating of indie cinematography and child-like whimsicality that makes everything feel magical and unknown. This movie is so intimately alien yet human, and so viscerally visual. I have aphantasia, so I can’t really visualise, but once I got home from the movie I was imagining how would Marcel try and navigate my messy desk - striking that same chord as looking out the car window and thinking how Mario would run along the rolling hills and dirty driveways.

So that’s a little summary of my surface-level, plot-free thoughts - hopefully that’s enough to inspire you to check out the movie if you haven’t! But I’d also like to discuss the plot a little more directly, so I’m going to have a little spoiler section here for further thoughts.


Seen the movie now? Great. Loved it? Great. Here’s more reasons why I loved it. Not everything in this section is a full on plot spoiler - but more of a content spoiler, since I truly wouldn’t want to spoil any little bit of magic this movie has. The title alone sold me on it, so that clouds the way I see spoilers.

Everything in this movie is fragile, soft, quietly intimate. The sound design is so spectacular in making you feel what you need to feel without ever really being on edge - even in the movie’s most unnerving and emotional moments, it never really hits with the full blunt edge. Each swing at the viewer’s emotions more feel like differing intensities of hugs - hitting right at the heart but never really hitting you where it hurts.

I love the way that this movie carefully obscures the filmographer, Dean, behind the camera - you get a lot of character from very very little. Aside from one small moment where Marcel chastises him for not being involved in the story - the movie really never shames him for being behind the camera, instead exploring how Dean gets personally involved in Marcel’s life from behind the lens. I found his character really interesting in how subtly it explores the idea of people who want to shine the spotlight on others, and want to do as much as they can within their comfort zone to help them. Having a protagonist who very much wants to be behind the scenes and exploring the validity of that is a really fun concept. His friendship with Marcel is unbelievably adorable - particularly the scene of him trying to learn how to play the song with Marcel to cheer him up, and all of the little background quips and questions that flesh him out without really saying much at all.

Marcel’s character strikes this perfectly unique balance between child-like wonder and trepidatious fear. He just… kind of lives. And experiences. His character is never viewed as being anything more extraordinary than the normal human - other than the fact that he’s a shell with shoes. You can see how his varyingly rough life experiences have made him both independent and selfless, and how those two traits never feel at odds with each other. Nothing in this movie feels at odds - it all feels right within its oddness.

This might just be a me thing but I get the feeling that all of life is moving towards a new state of hypertension. Every article I read and every word I hear feels bundled with thousands of layers of very worldly stress, and this movie hits exactly what I need right now: something otherworldly. Something deeply human, but providing an entirely different perspective on humanity. Something talking about everything we already know - but in a way that we never have before. Most indie movies will do that to you in some shape or form; but shifting into the form of stop-motion makes everything physically feel tactile and surreal, rather than just emotionally feeling it.

The scenes where Marcel talks about slightly more worldly concepts like grief and shifting seasons and community; these all strike a specific chord for me. They articulate scary thoughts in the way I do in my head, in my writings - rather than the way I would when talking or with dialogue. This circles back to my appreciation for mockumentaries - the ability to merge a format that gives the audience insight and the direct narrative direction of a traditional story has so much potential which this movie gleefully squeezes out.

Soft, warm acceptance really runs throughout this whole movie. I originally thought of describing it as a movie about grief - and it is - but it’s more about coping with various kinds of grief. Shoving yourself head first into a passion project to deal with a divorce. Creating carvings and special routines to honour the experiences of those who you had lost. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone to reach that acceptance felt following pain. Every character is grieving and finds acceptance both through what they did to cope, and an eventual, completely different outcome. Dean finding solace in his loneliness and passion through Marcel, Connie finding solace through her pain by seeing Marcel be happy.

It all leads the viewer to this room-temperature acceptance (which sounds bland on paper, but trust me). This movie bathes itself in neutral colours, but still manages to feel other-worldly; in the exact same way that this movie yearns for acceptance, but feels completely magical in achieving it.


Usually, with any form of art, it takes me a while to get immediately inspired to the point of writing. I’ll write my thoughts about games, music, anything that I feel passion for - but usually that passion has to blossom first, even for things I love at first sight.

Something about Marcel the Shell with Shoes On struck that chord to articulate from first watch - to spill all of my thoughts incohesively onto a page. It’s spectacularly delicate and adorable, it's food for the introverted soul. For a movie that wriggled itself into my thoughts so quickly - I wanted to spit those words back out and see how they formed. It’s the kind of well-crafted thing that makes me want to craft as well - because it shows that I could articulate my thoughts in a way that is still soft, artistic and passionate - fully formed and unquestioned.