welcome to marwen

★★★

DIRECTOR: robert Zemeckis (forrest gump, back to the future, cast away)
STARRING: steve carell, leslie mann, merritt wever, and gwendoline christie.

 

REVIEWER: lyall carter

The true story of Mark Hogancamp, a man struggling with PTSD who, after being physically assaulted, creates a fictional village to ease his trauma.

Robert Zemeckis is not only one of my favourite directors but Steve Carell is one of my favourite actors. When I saw the trailer for Welcome to Marwen I was elated; it looked like a cracking good story too filled with all the dramatic feels of Forrest Gump or Cast Away. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite hit those marks. 

When a devastating attack shatters Mark Hogancamp and wipes away all memories, no one expected recovery. Putting together pieces from his old and new life, Mark meticulously creates a wondrous town where he can heal and be heroic. As he builds an astonishing art installation—a testament to the most powerful women he knows—through his fantasy world, he draws strength to triumph in the real one.

 

Welcome to Marwen tackles some big subjects: the effects of PTSD on the individual and their community, the cost of being perceived as a 'hero', and the power of forgiveness. It really is a compelling tale made even more extraordinary that it was all lived out by flesh and blood human beings.

 

Mark Hogancamp's story is extraordinary. Lets just state that from the very beginning. But unfortunately it's Zemeckis' execution of the telling of this story that slightly lets the team down. 

Central to Mark Hogancamp's restoration and his art work is photographing dolls in the fictional town of Marwen that he creates. Mark lives his life through these dolls and to really make this come alive for us as viewers, Zemeckis choses to devote quite a large portion of the narrative bringing the dolls to life through the movie magic of CGI.

And its here, I believe, where Welcome to Marwen loses a lot of its emotional punch. Do we feel connected emotionally to Mark or his doll or both? Its easy if theres a couple of protagonists in a movie but it becomes difficult for the audience to track with when the same protagonist is split between two entities. Its just too emotional confusing. 

That being said the CGI is beautiful, Steve Carell's performance is sublime, and there are some moments that resound emotionally. But it could have been so much more. 

A heartwarming story of the triumph of the human spirit, which is slightly let down by the narrative execution

★★★

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Welcome to Marwen is available on DVD and digital from all good disc and digital retailers. 

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