Song of the Day #5,362: ‘Linger’ – Marcel the Shell with Shoes On

Concluding the countdown of my favorite 2022 movies…

Best Films of 2022
#1 – Marcel the Shell with Shoes On

Invariably, the movie that ends up at #1 on my year-end list is the one that moved me the most.

Every one of my favorites is well-crafted, featuring excellent writing and direction and memorable performances, but one usually stands out for knocking me on my ass emotionally.

This year, that movie was a partially animated mockumentary based on a series of YouTube shorts about a talking shell.

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On is the creation of actress Jenny Slate and director Dean Fleischer Camp, who produced three short films in 2010 following the adventures of the titular shell, a precocious inch-tall mollusk with a single googly eye and pink sneakers.

Twelve years later, they have expanded those shorts into a feature film, co-writing the script with Nick Paley. Slate and Camp both act in the film, her as the voice of Marcel and him as “Dean,” a man who befriends and films the little shell after encountering him in an Airbnb. Isabella Rossellini is the other principal cast member, voicing Marcel’s grandma Nana Connie.

The shorts are funny and sweet, establishing Marcel’s wide-eyed worldview and the creative ways he interacts with his environment, but the movie operates on a whole different level. This is a profound and often heartbreaking exploration of grief and a poetic ode to the beauty of everyday life — balm for weary souls.

It’s remarkable that Marcel can be so moving and still so funny — I can’t think of another movie that makes me laugh as hard as it makes me cry. It often manages to do both within the same scene.

Take this exchange between Marcel, Dean, and Leslie Stahl, who is interviewing the pair for a 60 Minutes segment:

Marcel, how long has it been since
you’ve seen your family?

Well, I don’t do the clock the way
that you guys do the clock. But I’m
watching the changes in the trees,
and the flowers that have bloomed,
and the blossoms that have fallen.
The buds that have come and bloomed
again. So, I couldn’t tell you, but
the space in my heart gets bigger
and louder every day.

Dean, do you know how long?

It was two years.

Oh, that’s nice to know.

Slate’s delivery of that last line is spit-take funny, even as the aching beauty of her previous answer still lingers. That dizzying dichotomy recurs in scene after scene.

Slate is brilliant in this role, but a generous enough creator to give some of the film’s most poignant moments to her co-star. Rossellini brings dignity and playfulness to the role of Nana Connie, an aging shell who doesn’t want to hold Marcel back from new adventures.

The relationship between Marcel and Connie drives the film’s plot, to the extent that it has one. The narrative finds Marcel opening up to the outside world, looking for his lost family, but wanting to protect the life he has built with his grandma.

Yesterday I mentioned The Fabelmans‘ fabulous final moments. Marcel similarly ends with a brilliant grace note, a scene so beautiful and meaningful it takes my breath away.

Of course that’s true of the whole movie, and it’s why this is the best film I saw last year.

Thank you for reading my thoughts on my favorite 2022 films. I’d love to see your own lists in the comments.

Mmm-mmm, I want to linger
Mmm-mmm, a little longer
Mmm-mmm, a little longer here with you

Mmm-mmm, it’s such a perfect night
Mmm-mmm, it doesn’t seem quite right
Mmm-mmm, that this should be my last with you

Mmm-mmm, and come September
Mmm-mmm, I will remember
Mmm-mmm, the happy days I spent with you

Mmm-mmm, and as the years go by
Mmm-mmm, I’ll think of you and sigh
Mmm-mmm, this is so long and not goodbye

7 thoughts on “Song of the Day #5,362: ‘Linger’ – Marcel the Shell with Shoes On

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    I’m not the list making type, but Marcel would very likely make my top 10 if I were to put one together. Much like Everything Everywhere, I walked in skeptical that I would enjoy a high concept art film, so, in each case, the movie had a higher hill to climb- and both climbed it.

  2. Amy says:

    I’m laughing out loud reading the piece of the script you shared and then the clips. Her description of the documentary slays me.

    Another feature of many films that wind up as one’s favorite of the year is how unexpected they are. I didn’t see CODA coming last year or Marcel this year, and that unexpected balm for the soul made them even more precious than if I’d been anticipating them. Many of my “favorite” films, from Raising Arizona to Princess Bride to Enough Said, have that in common.

    I’ve been tinkering with my list as I’ve caught up with a few more films, so I’ll post it very soon.

    Thanks for the opportunity to reflect on movies we both share a love for and others we don’t. As always, it’s been edifying.

  3. Peg says:

    Wow I didn’t see that coming! I must find this movie and watch it immediately. I’ve heard how wonderful it is from my family members but kind of dismissed it as the one to pick for animated film this year even though Pinocchio will probably win. Here’s hoping it will win 🤞

  4. Maddie says:

    Catching up – but so glad to share a top 2022 film with you! 🙂 She really held that spot for so much of the year. Glad that we can all recognize this brilliance even if the Academy didn’t.

    As for my list – I’ve been shuffling things around and I still should revisit some of these to see if the spots remain the same, but my current top 10:

    1. Marcel the Shell
    2. Banshees of Inisherin
    3. Tár
    4. The Menu
    5. Everything Everywhere All at Once
    6. Top Gun Maverick
    7. Nope
    8. After Yang
    9. Bros
    10. Pearl

    • Amy says:

      Great list. Love to see Bros and Maverick on your list.

    • Clay says:

      Love this list, and not just because we share six titles in common 🙂

      I really need to see After Yang again. I’m not sure why I didn’t really respond to it the first time. Maybe it’s just not for me, but it seems like a movie I’ll connect with more on a second viewing.

  5. Peg says:

    Watched a good bit of Marcel yesterday. It is very special for all the reasons you state.

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