A victim of a brutal attack finds a unique and beautiful therapeutic outlet to help him through his recovery process.
2018 finished with a dud and unfortunately 2019 starts with a dud as well. ‘Welcome to Marwen’ may just be one of the oddest mainstream movie releases in recent times, a blend of motion capture fantasy and a tale of someone coping with trauma which never sit well together. It comes from Robert Zemeckis, perhaps the only filmmaker who would tackle something like this, and it tells the true story of artist Mark Hogancamp, a man who creates a fictional village using models as a way to cope with the PTSD he suffers from as a result of a horrific assault. You can see what the filmmakers are trying to do by drawing a contrast between Mark’s life in the real world and his ‘character’ in the fictional world, but it didn’t work for me.
Steve Carell stars as Hogancamp and his subtle and layered performance is the best thing about ‘Welcome to Marwen’, and the film is at its best when we see him in the real world trying to cope with what he went through, with the aid of some kind (and underused) friends. Carell generally makes interesting choices but he’s not served well by the film surrounding him, which never brings the disparate elements of the story together. The tone of the film doesn’t feel right and the fantasy world doesn’t dovetail as smoothly as required, and it doesn’t work as a successful representation of Mark’s coping mechanisms. I’m not sure I’d have wanted to watch a film of Mark trying to cope solely in the real world but the attempts to draw us into his mind feel like they come from an entirely different movie and it doesn’t serve to enhance our understanding of what Mark is going through.
‘Welcome to Marwen’ is not good, but it is at least an attempt to tell an ambitious and original story and I enjoyed Carell’s performance, even as the tone veers all over the place, never hitting the emotional beats it’s aiming for. An ambitious curio but perhaps a film to give a miss.
Directed By: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Steve Carell, Leslie Mann, Diane Kruger, Merritt Wever, Janelle Monae, Eiza Gonzalez, Gwendoline Christie, Leslie Zemeckis, Neil Jackson and Falk Hentschel