Welcome to Marwen review

Welcome to Marwen from director Robert Zemeckis loosely based on the real life story of Mark Hogancamp, a man who was severely beaten, and left for dead in the street. To try to deal with the mental an emotional trauma caused by the attack, Hogancamp created a fictional town called Marwencol, set in World War II era Belgium. The town is populated with 12″ dolls, many of which represent Mark’s family and friends.

The film takes the idea of telling stories with the dolls, and interprets it as an external projection of internal trauma, rather than an ongoing art project helping to deal with trauma. The film uses expensive cgi to bring the dolls to life, but it ends up leaning into this visual gimmick to hard, in lieu of deeper character storytelling. The gimmick gets old fast, but Zemeckis seems so pleased with it that he won’t let go of it, and allows it to dominate the film. He also is very heavy handed in referencing some of his earlier films, particularly Back to the Future, and this becomes really distracting.

One of the central story lines of the film portrays medication as an addiction problem that needs to be conquered, rather than something that helps many people, some of whom do require drugs on an ongoing basis. Using one of the dolls to represent medication as an antagonist character for the protagonist to defeat is narrow minded, and offensive.

Overall this film feels very tone deaf, adapting a true story, but junking most of the story and missing it’s point, Welcome to Marwen is just too in love with it’s own visual gimmick. I do not recommend this film.

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