Media Review: Marcel the Shell with Shoes On

Photo courtesy of A24 Films

On the outside, “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” looks like a lighthearted children’s film, a googly-eyed shell being the main character. Upon seeing the trailer, it immediately drew me to Marcel’s charismatic and curious personality and I assumed the movie would be a feel-good film. But I was left drowning in my tears by the end of the movie. “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” is more than an animated film about a cute sounding shell. It’s a touching film that describes loss, hope, and one’s fears in a changing world. Marcel is a kind reminder that no matter how small we are, change is inevitable.

The film follows director Dean Fleischer-Camp as a guest staying at the house Marcel and his family live in. Intrigued by his miniature life, Fleischer-Camp begins to learn about Marcel’s day to day life, meeting his “pet” aka a piece of lint named Alan, and his nana Connie. Whimsical and imaginative, Fleischer-Camp begins recording and uploading videos of Marcel’s life to YouTube, garnering the attention of millions. Despite his newfound popularity, Marcel is overcome by loneliness. Learning about the separation between Marcel and his family, Fleischer-Camp decides to conduct a livestream to help reunite them. Marcel reluctantly agrees, and soon realizes that the quaint miniature world he’s adapted to is tiny in comparison to the world around him. Scared of what the future may hold, Marcel proves that he can persist through his overwhelming fear of change, and find what he truly wants — his family. 

Marcel is a kind reminder that no matter how small we are, change is inevitable.

However, when he returns from the “real world” of Los Angeles, Marcel finds Nana Connie’s dementia has gotten worse, and realizes she does not have much time left. This change he was afraid of happens, and he realizes he must stop the search to take care of his grandmother. This seems to be the end of Marcel’s journey, and he decides to stay in his shell, terrified by further change. But when Marcel is approached by the series “60 Minutes,” to publicize his story on television, there is a glimmer of hope to reignite the search. He at first declines the offer, worried about the sudden shift it’ll bring on his grandmother’s health. But Nana Connie tells him he can not decline the offer. So, Marcel asks her a question: “What if everything changes?” And in response, she reminds him it will. 

This one moment alone conveys the message of the movie perfectly. Change is constantly happening in one’s life. It is scary, yes, but it’s our job to accept it, and overcome it. Marcel has already undergone multiple changes in his life, and knows that there’s a small chance he can save his grandmother. Yet, with her reassurance he decides to hold onto the small hope he has left, for the small chance that the segment could reunite his family.  

Photo courtesy of A24 Films

When filming, Nana Connie looks over to Marcel joyfully living out his dream of being on the show, and peacefully passes away. I had no words when this occurred. Though I knew it was coming, to happen so soon was shocking. But just like she said, change did come, leading Marcel to be overcome by grief and lose the innocent and curious shell we first met. Utterly heartbroken and petrified of change, Marcel decides to do nothing. He does not go outside, and spends his days alone, closed off from everyone. Until he is called by “60 Minutes,” and realizes he isn’t alone. Through “60 minutes,” he reunites with them and now has gained the one thing he wanted the most: his family. 

Overcoming his grief, Marcel begins life yet again in his community, honoring Nana Connie in all he does, through the garden he maintains in her honor. Marcel is no longer alone. The film concludes with Marcel on a windowsill, admiring the way the wind feels when it goes through his shell. The film’s final seconds end with the serene sound of his shell. He knows he’s still grieving, but he’s also healing. Though the ending is nothing profound, it demonstrates that no matter what, change did occur. As much as Marcel tried to stop it from happening, it was bigger than him. 

“Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” is a film everyone has to see at least once in their life. It’s a film that catches you off guard, and leaves you contemplating your entire existence. Though Marcel had experienced pain unimaginable, he always held out hope. Marcel taught me that I can remain cautious and be scared of change, but it’ll always come, whether I like it or not.