In the imaginary world of Marwen, Cap’n Hogie is a hero: a square-jawed, brave and stoic soldier of days gone by. In actual upstate New York, his creator Mark Hogenkamp is an anxiety-filled, loss of memory riddled depressive, who copes with a savage beating through his artwork.
His art is his salvation…and also a severe crutch for Mark. After surviving a hate-crime (Mark has a certain fetish that he says allows him to understand the essence of other people), his world becomes Marwen and he embraces it fully.
In building a fully immersive, imaginary environment, Mark takes from his reality and spins a narrative where his character never falters. Mark is Cap’n Hogie; his caregiver Anna is Comrade Anna; his former physical therapist Julie is a stone cold sharpshooter; his friend and hobby store employee Roberta is a soldier and medic; his coworker Caralala is also a fellow soldier and bomb expert. Everything associated with Marwen is linked to Mark’s real life, including its villains. The vicious SS scum that regularly thwarts the peace of Marwen are the doll embodiments of the real life demons that beat Mark to within an inch of his life. Everything together and everything in its place.
The catalyst of Marwen and Mark’s coping mechanisms is a malevolent doll named Deja. Unlike the other dolls, Deja doesn’t seem to have a link to Mark’s reality…until he makes the connection himself. When that connection is made, the malignant dependency on Deja’s character is broken. And with that break, Marl is able to finally further his healing.
While Steve Carell and the supporting cast give a solid, nuanced performance, Welcome to Marwen will more than likely be left out of the awards season conversation. Director Robert Zemeckis provides a stunning live-action/motion capture method that captivates more than the slightly formulaic writing does. Being based on a true story does lend a certain authenticity and Carell does a deep dive into the aftereffects of PTSD and coping mechanisms of it. Overall, a fine effort by all. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Welcome to Marwen opens nationwide on Christmas day