Welcome To Marwen hits theaters this weekend, and it’s a very sweet, heartwarming story, but also one that needed to dig deeper.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis and based on a true story, it’s the story of Mark Hogancamp (Steve Carell), the victim of a brutal hate crime. After the beating leaves him with PTSD and no memory of his former life, Mark turns to his own form of therapy. He creates a fictional village in his yard – the titular Marwen – and lives out a life with dolls, photographing them and turning them into an art installation. The film follows Mark as he deals with his trauma, and shows “how artistic imagination can restore the human spirit.”
This is an incredibly moving story. There are a ton of important messages that can be gleaned from it. It’s about the healing powers of art, and the need for a support system. It’s a celebration of strong women. Perhaps most importantly, it’s about embracing and loving who you are.
Steve Carell will move you to tears as Mark. He builds such a strong connection with the audience, and truly makes you feel for the character after only knowing him a few minutes. When Mark suffers, you suffer. Carell is hands down the strongest part of this film. Also very impressive is the depiction of Marwen. The animators do a tremendous job bringing the dolls to life, while still having a lot of fun with the fact that this is a fantasy world and they can do whatever they want.
However, with all that said, Welcome to Marwen needed to dig deeper. It sets up all of these important themes and messages, but none of them are fully fleshed out. The audience is told a lot of things, but rarely shown. As a result, certain plot points and relationships don’t make a lot of sense. Some of the lessons don’t land. When the “villain” of Marwen is finally revealed, it doesn’t seem to fit. The audience is never really shown the destructive nature of this villain in Mark’s real life; again, we’re only told.
Had Zemeckis developed these ideas more, the messages and lessons he set up would have delivered a much stronger punch.
Unfortunately, Carell’s performance is not enough to save Welcome to Marwen. Lack of depth will leave audiences wanting more from what could have been a powerful film.