Set in contemporary Chicago, amid a time of turmoil, four women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead husbands' criminal activities, take fate into their own hands, and conspire to forge a future on their own terms.
On April 8, 2000, aspiring artist Mark Hogancamp (Steve Carell) became a victim of a violent assault when five men beat him up and left him for dead. Following the attack, Mark was left with little to no memory of his previous life due to brain damage inflicted by his attackers. In a desperate attempt to regain his memories, Hogancamp constructs a miniature World War II village called Marwen in his yard to help in his recovery. Unfortunately, Mark's demons come back to haunt him when he's asked to testify against the five men that attacked him..
Unique ideas are tossed around from year to year, and sadly, it seems as though less and less are getting made. Sure, there are arguments to be made for the case that there's more original content being made today than ever before, due to the sheer number of television shows and movies all being produced. That being said, it's usually the sequels and remakes that get the attention, because of their name recognition. Welcome to Marwen was one of my most anticipated movies of 2018 because I had faith that it would be unique and memorable. While that may be true in terms of visual style, this movie, for lack of a better term, bored me. I really don't like watching a movie with so much potential, crash and burn on arrival, but this movie is the perfect example of that, even with the positives in mind. Here's why I can't quite recommend checking out Welcome to Marwen.
Following Mark Hogancamp after his brutal attack by some men who beat him for simply being different, Welcome to Marwen is about how he overcame (or struggled to overcome) his past. Building his own world out of dolls to create a more satisfying past for himself, this movie explores what true friendship means and how pain can help move you forward in life. The performances in this movie really do sell the overall true story, but there wasn't enough of anything to go around in my opinion. This movie has so much potential in terms of visual style, but it truly told the story it wanted to tell throughout the first act.
As I mentioned, this movie has a very unique visual style and I have to commend it for that. The way it transitions from animated sequences to live-action footage was seamless from start to finish. I found myself being very impressed by what was being presented on-screen, it's just that it felt like these sequences were tools to drag out a story that was already completed. The movie begins as he is preparing for his court date and then ends with the court case. Everything in between seemed like a well-written book report by a smart grade-schooler who hadn't read the full novel. I'm not saying these filmmakers didn't thoroughly research this story, it's just that it felt like the same story beats were being repeated over and over again.
On the plus side of this movie feeling repetitive and slow, Steve Carrell gives a very commendable performance here. He is also joined by the very likable Leslie Mann as his new neighbour, as well as his cast of dolls in Gwendoline Christie, Janelle Monáe, Diane Kruger, with his most notable companion being the local store owner, played by Merritt Wever. The storyline of their closeness was easily the most enjoyable aspect of this film because it was really the only thing that had progression. Personally, there were quite a few likable characters here, but none of them were fleshed out enough to fully care about in the end.
In the end, I'm sure this true story was very emotional and powerful in reality, but as far as this narrative feature film goes, it didn't do anything to invest me. I was checking my watch as I waiting for the next exciting or engaging moment, but they came too far apart. Quite honestly, the story, the characters, the visuals, and the overall character arc of Mark are all superb here, but none of it is developed enough to become invested in. This story is better suited for a documentary (which has already been done), which is why I feel it felt so long in the end. I can't get myself to recommend this one to anyone, but if you do, you'll probably be able to see the potential in everything as I did.
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