Who knew watching a one inch shell with red shoes and a sassy little attitude could be so wonderfully profound and enlightening? If there’s one movie I’ve been waiting to watch all summer long, it’s A24’s Marcel the Shell with Shoes On. After waiting a veery long time for its digital release, I finally got to see it. Let me tell you, this movie is everything I wanted and more. Filmed in the style of a mockumentary, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On is a comedy drama that follows a young shell, Marcel, dreaming of being reunited with his lost family. The movie has a small but mighty cast, with the talented Jenny Slate voicing Marcel, Isabella Rossellini voicing Nana Connie, and Dean Fleischer Camp as himself. I don’t mean to spoil the ending of this review, but I just want to say that this is one of my favourite releases of the year already.

[Please note there are spoilers in this review; read at your own discretion]

Marcel and Nana Connie in the garden

For anyone who’s confused and thinking, “huh, a movie about a shell?”, the character of Marcel the Shell is based on a collection of shorts created in 2010 by Slate and Fleischer Camp. If that still doesn’t ring any bells, don’t worry, you don’t have to watch them to understand this movie. While this film already premiered at a film festival back in 2021, it wasn’t until 2022 that the movie was released in theatres. I desperately wanted to watch this on the big screen, but due to its limited release, I decided to wait for it to come out on digital. Since then, I’ve read numerous positive reviews, and after watching it last weekend, I can confidently say they’re all true (thank god). 

With delightfully whimsical characters, beautifully poignant storytelling, and so much heart at its core, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On is a movie that everyone needs to see. If you’re wondering how a movie about a tiny talking shell could possibly be interesting, trust me, it just is. And I don’t mean “interesting” as in you’ll see Marcel jumping off rooftops or fighting bad guys in the streets, I mean “interesting” as in how is this little guy teaching me so much about life? The plot is incredibly simple, but its simplicity is what allows us to fully absorb the wisdom and advice Marcel gives us. More than anything else, this movie is about exploring emotions and understanding the meaning of connection.

Marcel looking up at the computer screen

What I loved about this movie is that they didn’t make the character feel kiddish or tacky at all. Having such an animated, funny looking main character could’ve diminished the movie’s intent, but really, Marcel is what solidifies it. To me, this movie is all about the idea of community and what it means to belong to one. Throughout the film, you can evidently feel that behind Marcel’s endearing optimism is a slight sadness and loneliness from having lost his community. While the film is shot with a lot of bright scenery in constant daylight, I couldn’t help but notice it was like the light was illuminating the emptiness of the space – the house was so bare (in a literal and non-literal sense) as if it was missing something.

My favourite part was when Marcel was initially admiring all of his newfound followers and supporters, only to realize that this group of online people did not feel like a community at all. “It’s an audience, not a community”. So what is a community? Well, Marcel shows us it’s our connection to one another and our appreciation for our memories with each other that builds a meaningful community. While I felt pessimistic about Marcel’s chances in finding his family, his eagerness and motivation proves just how important it is to him (although his obliviousness to how massive the world actually is was absolutely adorable).

Marcel showcasing his hidden stash of goods

Marcel is an absolute rock star and despite only being one inch tall, he manages to steal the spotlight in every scene. I loved the “big personality in a little body” concept and everything about him was just so adorable and pure. His outlook on life is radiant and his humour is infectious. Slate does a marvelous job in finding the perfect balance between making Marcel sound both innocently young and remarkably wise. As we follow Marcel around in his day to day life, he teaches us how to appreciate the simple things in life and to be thoughtful of small wonders. Despite losing everything and everyone, he still remains positive and that was something truly special to watch. He has this careful cautiousness for the unknown that is mixed with a childlike curiosity that makes me wish I could still see the world like that.

Nana Connie, on the other hand, is Marcel’s number one supporter and believer. She has such a sweet and gentle voice that filled me with warmth whenever she spoke. Her constant encouragement and efforts in trying to make Marcel be more open and adventurous is made all the more potent to the audience when we realize she is dying. While it becomes evident to us watching, it’s heartbreaking watching Marcel believe in the opposite. I loved the relationship between the two and they had a dynamic that was so full of love. Nana Connie’s death, the slow fading of her character into the white sunlight, was definitely the emotional peak of the movie.

Marcel's community watching Marcel's interview on 60 Minutes

If I had to describe Marcel the Shell with Shoes On in a single phrase, I would say it feels like a warm hug. It’s filled with childlike wonder (thanks to Marcel!) and its deep fascination with the world was refreshing. Man, what I would give to experience the world like Marcel does – I feel like as I’ve grown older (and I’m sure many of you will agree with me), I’ve lost that sense of admiration for the world. This movie helped to remind me of this, and to me, that’s excellent filmmaking. I teared up more than a couple of times, not only for the sad moments, but also for the touchingly sweet moments.

Don’t get me wrong, this movie is also incredibly funny! Most of the humour comes from the exchanges between Marcel and Dean who develop a great relationship over the course of the film. Yes he’s innocent, but Marcel can be a bit snappy too! He has this sort of light sarcastic humour that I love and found especially funny. I certainly laughed out loud too many times to count.

Nana Connie smiling at Marcel in Marcel the Shell with Shoes on (2021)

I must be incredibly lucky lately or something because I’ve discovered another gem of a comfort movie. Marcel the Shell with Shoes On has immediately catapulted to the top of my “feel good” movies list. It’s just such a breath of fresh air and the perspectives you gain from watching are transformative. I loved every bit of this movie and I can’t say there was anything to complain about. The direction was fantastic, the characters were charming, the writing was extraordinary. It’s the kind of film I would recommend to everyone, and I mean everyone. I have nothing but positive things to say about Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, and for that reason alone, I’m giving this movie an amazing 9.5/10. It’s unique in its own right, but the message behind this movie is so relevant to everyone. It’s beautifully told with just the right amount of charm…okay okay, I’ve said enough. Please just give this one a watch (I hope I’ve convinced you enough) 🙂