Welcome to Marwen tells the true story of one man’s struggle to comes to terms with his new reality following a life-changing attack.
Victim of a brutal attack artist Mark Hogencamp (Steve Carell) had his life ripped away from him and, with little memory of what came before, he had to start anew. It was a long road to recovery and although the scars on the outside eventually healed, those on the inside did not. The world wasn’t kind to Mark and, as a result, he created the wonderful world of Marwen as an escape.
Set during World War 2, the fictional Belgium town is populated by those from the real world that Mark trusts. His colleagues, his friends and sometimes even those he has a romantic interest in. At the centre of Marwen is Cap’n Hoggie, a fallen pilot who will protect Marwen from the invading Nazis. Oozing in charm and machismo, Hoggie is everything that the real Mark isn’t; charismatic, heroic and brave.
With this odd sense of therapy for Mark, the question is whether those characteristics will ever be found in the real Mark Hogencamp that will allow him to move on from the terrible tragedy that changed his life.
Little time is wasted as you’re thrown into the CGI world of Marwen. With stunning visuals, it’s bold and bright, a stark contrast to Mark’s real world. With gags that remind you that you’re watching action figures, the tone is kept light and jovial. Nobody is in any real danger. They’re just toys. This does, however, feel at times real in the mind of Mark Hogencamp.
Taking them everywhere he goes, it’s a crutch Mark leans on and a means for social interaction, even if they’re made of plastic. The metaphor is clear to see as Mark channels his mental struggles to his escapism.
Subtly, however, isn’t something that Welcome to Marwen excels at. The greater the world of Marwen interacts with Mark’s real world, the more outlandish and confusing it becomes. With witches and time machines, you may be left wondering what on earth is actually going on.
Anchored around a typically solid performance from Steve Carrell (Beautiful Boy) you can’t help but be bought into Mark’s shyness and worry in the real world. His troubles are plenty and you do hope he works them out.
Robert Zemeckis is a Director whose CV is up there with some of the best of them. Back to the Future, Forrest Gump, Flight and Allied to name a few. Although Welcome to Marwen is a positive addition to his filmography, it’s not got that dramatic clarity to hold it with the big boys.
Dealing with themes of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the concept of male masculinity, Welcome to Marwen works best when it focuses on the character at the heart of the story. Though the CGI gives life to the concept of his struggle, it’s really Mark Hogencamp’s real life journey to conquer his demons that we’re interested in.
When focused, Welcome to Marwen is a sweet and endearing story of one man battling back from adversity to stand up and be part of the outside world once again.
By Jordan Barrett