Something great about seeking out and watching so many movies just so that I can sit here and tell people what I thought of them, is that I can recommend and at the very least make people aware of small movies that many people otherwise wouldn’t have heard of. Small but no less great movies like “Marvellous” deserve to be held up on a podium above most of the millions of dollars of trash that we see every year. I refuse to make a joke about how the film’s title effortlessly ties into its quality, but just know that if I didn’t have a modicum of respect for you as a reader, I would.
Toby Jones — who is an unfortunately underrated actor I feel — portrays Neil “Nello” Baldwin. Nello is a local legend at Stoke-on-Trent, England. That is because of his incredible life story, in which he is a man with learning disabilities that has gone on to live a fantastic life free from the bounds that would be suggested by his difficulties. In a job interview, Nello is told there is a way to help people that may have difficulty acquiring a job. He replies “Why are you telling me that?” with absolute sincerity, he doesn’t believe that he has difficulty sorting himself out. After watching the film, I think I might have to agree with him.
The real Neil Baldwin often interjects and speaks to Toby Jones’ version of his character, this is often used to remind us that the events that took place really happened. Yes, “Marvellous” is a mostly true story and usually that doesn’t mean anything but this time it does as it gives every scene a lot more importance and relevance. The story is what some would describe as the poor man’s “Forrest Gump” and the plot in general is very similar to Robert Zemeckis‘ film. The tone however and the way in which the story is approached, perhaps aided by the British origin of this film, completely changes the picture. You will undoubtedly see the similarities, but you haven’t seen this film before — and yes. I would argue that “Marvellous” is better than “Forrest Gump” overall.
Nello is a registered clown but is unfortunately sacked from his job in the circus due to a spiteful ringmaster. Once he returns home to see his mother (Gemma Jones) after an undisclosed amount of time, we learn that she is slowly deteriorating and, in her own words, “won’t be around much longer”. Part of the plot is based on her inherent worry that her son won’t be able to look after himself when she is gone, only compounded by the fact that he has lost his job. Neil decides to find a new job at Keele University and he wanders onto campus and begins to greet the students. Neil also wants to be a part of his own love of football, and decides he would like to be the manager of Stoke City FC. Following this he amazes all who know him by getting a job as a kit man for the club when he simply goes and speaks to the new manager Lou Macari (Tony Curran, though he also appears as himself). Why does Neil get the job? Probably just for being Neil.
You have to admire a film that can send you through such a great range of emotions. “Marvellous” is hilarious, but when Julian Farino, the director of the film, decides he wants you to cry, you’ll be hard pressed not to oblige. That is true for one particular scene in the film, in which the usually unwaveringly optimistic Neil is torn from his happiness that he has maintained for so long despite everything and everyone that would try to prevent that.
As a character Neil is unique in that initially you aren’t going to be thinking to yourself that you want to be this man, he clearly suffers from learning difficulties after all, so why would you want that? By the end I feel it would take a special kind of cold person to not actually look up to Neil and to even acknowledge that this man is in many ways better then them, I can admit it. Lou Macari calls Neil “genuine” and that is something a lot of people lack. Perhaps a positive outlook like Neil’s is too often associated with naivety. If that is the case, then I’d like to be as naive as can be please.
“Marvellous” is out on DVD on the 17th of November here in the UK, the day of this review. I implore you to seek this film out and try it. It isn’t some pretentious rubbish, it is just flat out spectacular. A “feel good” movie that understands that it can deal with the hardships of life, and still generate an exceedingly positive and endearing message.
(Note: The release of “Marvellous” on DVD has been held back until the 1st of December)