Marcel the Shell With Shoes On Is the Heartwarming Film We All Need


Marcel the Shell with Shoes On stars Marcel, a one-inch tall shell who is voiced by Jenny Slate and lives in a house with his grandma, Nanna Connie. The two are discovered when Dean, played by Dean Fleischer-Camp, books the home as an Airbnb. Inspired by the fantastical energy of Marcel, Dean begins to make documentary-style videos of the life of Marcel and Nanna Connie. As Dean films Marcel’s life, more and more is revealed about their past. The story uses the outlandish nature of a talking one-inch shell to craft a poignant message that almost anyone can relate to. They create a beautiful story about family and loss that is equal parts inspiring and melancholy, and it is done in such a way that, to me, makes it the perfect movie. Also, spoilers are ahead.

The movie is leaps and bounds beyond its small beginnings. The character of Marcel was originally created by Slate and Fleischer-Camp for a YouTube video in 2010. The shorts have a similar style to the feature-length film, but the quality has increased tenfold with better cameras, better stop-motion, and a better setting. The visuals of the film are so simple yet so intricate when it comes to creating the world that Marcel and Nanna Connie live in. From using bread as a bed and a tennis ball as transportation to making a piece of lint and a string as a pet, Marcel’s resourcefulness creates stunning visuals that make everyone want to be small. 

Marcel himself is the best lead you could ask for in a film like this. He is likable with a little bit of sass and has a fascination with the world around him that can only be described as childlike and pure. Everyone can find a piece of themselves within Marcel. When you peel back the layers, there also becomes a depth to him. He is fiercely protective of his grandma, almost to the point that it becomes overbearing for Nanna Connie. He is also weirdly humanized by his obsession with 60 Minutes and Lesley Stahl, with which Nanna Connie shares the same obsession. 

As Dean continues to film the two’s daily activities, which mainly include roaming around the house and tending to the garden, he uncovers their backstory. There was once a community of small beings that roamed the house until the previous couple who lived there began to argue. During the arguments, the community would hide in the sock drawer when, one day, the man who lived there packed his things and left. Inside his bag was the entire community except for Marcel and Nanna Connie, who were watching 60 Minutes waiting for the rest of the community to join them for their weekly viewing. The whole story makes Marcel feel even more relatable and more well-rounded as a character. You can tell that his protectiveness stems from wanting to keep his grandma around as long as possible due to losing his entire family and community in an instant.

As the plot progresses, Dean begins to post the videos of Marcel to YouTube, which quickly blows up. Now Marcel must reconcile with his newfound fame and attempts to use it to find his long-lost family. This is when things begin to take an even darker turn. The film makes a commentary on fan culture as people begin to show up at Marcel’s house to take pictures rather than listen to his call to action to help him find his family. This perfectly encapsulates what many find wrong with fame in today’s world, everyone just wants to say they went to the house that one famous person lived in rather than listening to what celebrities often want more than anything else, space. It makes the whole story feel more real as now more than ever people rise to popularity overnight and have to then learn how to deal with it on the fly. 

Marcel quickly begins to dislike his fame, especially after an accident where Nanna Connie is injured. He asks Dean to remove videos and help him to put newspapers on the windows so people can’t see in. However, things seem to look up when 60 Minutes contacts them wanting to do a story on them and help the two find their community. Marcel wants to say no because Nanna Connie is not doing well, especially since the accident, but when Nanna Connie finds this out she begins to pretend like she is doing better. This whole character dynamic is so often replicated with familial relationships in the real world in such a way that makes everyone who watches feel for both of the characters. It further humanizes both of them that makes their character arc that much more realistic despite them being literal shells with tiny shoes. 

In the end, Marcel ends up saying yes to the interview, but it is not without sacrifice as Nanna Connie passes away during it. The grief that Marcel goes through is something that every person goes through in their life and creates an even more dynamic character for the audience to relate to. All hope is not lost though because after the interview 60 Minutes was able to find where the old owner moved to and was able to reunite the community. 

One of the last scenes in the film is what really makes it a perfect film for me. The camera is zoomed in on Marcel as he watches his own 60 Minutes segment, and when it is revealed that they were able to find his family, it pans out to show the whole community watching the episode together. It truly just encapsulates everything the movie is trying to say and makes for a real tear-jerker, as the reunion is missing one person. 

The film as a whole just has so many amazing qualities that I feel like it is truly the perfect movie. It makes you happy, it makes you sad, it makes you angry, but most of all, it reminds you that it's all about community and the simple things, which is something many people need more of in the world we live in. 


Writer: Olivia Madrid

Artist: Solymar Estrella