Actor-turned-director Jasmine Trinca’s feature debut Marcel! introduces viewers to a young girl (Maayane Conti) who desires nothing more than to have her mother’s (Alba Rohrwacher) affection. However, her street performer mother has devoted all her attention to her pet dog Marcel. The pair star together in a pantomime act in which the dog runs away from his owner before they are happily reunited at the end. It’s a comically exaggerated act that accentuates this film’s offbeat tone, the mother dressed in a black tutu and leather headgear as a spattering of onlookers observe. But when the dog runs away for real and tragedy strikes, the grieving mother only further disassociates herself from her daughter, despite the girl’s best efforts to reconnect.
A semi-autobiographical script that reads like a surreal fairytale, Trinca’s debut is a compelling, strange and thoughtful twist on a mother-daughter story. It’s presented in a small aspect ratio (stylised film grain on the chapter titles), as a score reminiscent of del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth carefully picks at and explores a collection of playful motifs. Marcel!’s distinctively weird tone immediately draws audiences into its oddball world, however, it’s Daria D’Antonio’s vibrant cinematography that does much of the work in establishing the dreamlike atmosphere. The muted, everyday colours of the sun-baked streets are disrupted with rich reds that pop out of the screen as they make their intrusion known.
The film is a visual treat, with Trinca demonstrating her prowess in visual storytelling. Each frame is full of expression and meticulously constructed. Likewise, young Conti and Rohrwacher are phenomenal in their respective roles as they convey the friction and contempt that has come to characterise their relationship.
However, this directorial debut isn’t as polished when it comes to its script. Much of the plot is spent aimlessly wandering around; it takes some time to get to the meat of it, and even longer for it to dig into an exploration. Especially frustrating are the final moments, which completely recontextualise everything into a heartbreaking tragedy with one simple line of dialogue. It’s simple in its genius, but had this revelation came earlier, there’s no telling what the filmmaker could have done to elevate the emotional stakes.
Marcel! does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Cannes Film Festival 2022 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Cannes Film Festival website here.
Watch the trailer for Marcel! here: