Welcome to Marwen (2 stars)

Welcome to Marwen

A traumatised man retreats into fantasy in Robert Zemeckis's cheesy, true-life inspired drama, starring Steve Carell

For the second time this year, following Hereditary, miniatures have been linked with mental health as a way for characters to express and work through their emotions. Unlike that slice of supernatural horror, Robert Zemeckis's film is rooted in reality, recounting the true story of Mark Hogancamp who was brutally beaten in a hate crime attack in 2000, to the point where he lost all memories of his former life. As a coping mechanism, he created a fantasy world in his backyard – brought to life here via a blend of CGI and live-action.

Steve Carell stars as the cross-dressing fantasist who sees the opposite sex as the 'Saviours of the World', due to the fact that it was women who were responsible for not only saving him that night but also caring for him after the attack. The World War II setting of his imaginary town is inhabited by Nazis, one American GI and a lot of hot dames – with the dolls based on people he knows in the real world, played by such talented women as Leslie Mann, Diane Kruger, Gwendoline Christie, Janelle Monáe, Eiza González and Merritt Wever.

The dolls are depicted through the prism of Hogancamp's idealised view of women and his love of saucy porn, which works in the exaggerated setting of his art but not so well in real-life, as the film acknowledges through his relationship with Mann's character Nicol. What does work in Welcome to Marwen's favour are the explosions of anxiety and confusion that trouble Hogancamp's mind, conveyed through the CG characters embarking on dangerous missions.

Hogancamp's story has previously been documented by Jeff Malmberg in 2010's Marwencol, as has his passion for photography and the way it has been embraced by the art world. This dramatised version isn't as compelling in its handling of trauma, relying on cliched romantic tropes to push the story forward and short-changing its subjects with cheesy dialogue.

General release from Tue 1 Jan.

Welcome to Marwen

  • 2 stars
  • 2018
  • US
  • Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
  • Cast: Steve Carell, Diane Kruger, Eiza González

The true story of Mark Hogancamp (Carell), who was beaten and seriously injured in a hate crime and who, as a coping mechanism, created a fantasy world in his backyard. The film brings Hogancamp’s world to live using CGI and live action but it’s not nearly as compelling as the 2010 Hogancamp documentary Marwencol.