Welcome to Marwen, 2018.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis.
Starring Steve Carrell, Leslie Mann, Janelle Monae, Eiza Gonzalez, Leslie Zemeckis, Gwendoline Christie, and Merritt Weaver.
A victim of a brutal attack finds a unique and beautiful therapeutic outlet to help him through his recovery process.
Welcome to Marwen is the unique true story of Mark Hogancamp who after suffering a brutal assault, seeks refuge in the fantasy world of Marwen. Whilst there he becomes the heroic Cap’n Hogie who during World War II is continually saved by a group of women who mirror those he knows in real life. Creating photographs and also helping his recovery, it is inspired by the documentary Marwencol (2010).
Part CGI animation and part live action, Welcome to Marwen feels as if its two sides of director Robert Zemeckis battling with each other. One the one hand you have the toy fantasy world which uses motion capture technology to great effect an on the other you have the real life trauma and story unfolding. Unfortunately the two elements struggle to work in harmony together throughout the film and at times its tone is uneven. That’s not to say that Welcome to Marwen is the hollow disaster that many have been claiming it to be. It’s not perfect, but there’s still a lot of heart in this true life story.
In the lead role is Steve Carrell who continues his move away from his comedic roots to more award friendly material. His performance as the broken Hogancamp is layered and he handles the touch subject matter of hate crimes and brain injuries well. There are times when the sentimentality is dialled up too much but this is usually reeled in with a cut to the CGI action of Marwen.
Throughout the film Hogancamp talks about how women are the saviours of the world and with that it’s interesting how little character development each of the women get. Within the fantasy world of Marwen you have GI Julie (Monae), Anna (Christie), Carlala (Gonzalez), Roberta (Wever) and Suzette (Zemeckis). Whilst Roberta does get a bit of background in the real world, the rest of the actresses are one dimensional fantasies in the fictional Marwen world. The female character to get the most to do is Nicol (Mann) and yet we still find out little about her real life character due to the narrative positioning of the film. There’s brief indications of a dead child and a rough break up but ultimately she is there to serve Mark’s needs in real life and in his fantasy world. The point may be to emphasise Mark’s perspective of the world, but at times it feels slightly sexist and uncomfortable.
Whilst there is a lot of fun to be had with the stories that Mark creates in Marwen, there is a dark undertone throughout the film which is at times tough to watch. Hate crime and justice is discussed a lot as well as the impact of trauma. It makes for an uneven but daring piece of filmmaking from Zemeckis.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★