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Mary and Max (DVD)
Member Name: magenta23
Mary and Max (DVD)
Advantages: Story, characters, animation, style ... exceptional
Mary and Max is one of those films that after I'd seen it I wanted to tell everyone about, it's that good but sadly when I mentioned it, I got a lot of blank expressions. I think it's a shame that it didn't have more exposure because it is one of the best films I've seen in a long time.
Mary and Max was released in 2009, directed and written by Adam Elliot. It's a claymation film and features a good cast of voices including Philip Seymour Hoffman, Toni Collette and Eric Bana, however I didn't even really notice that it was them when I was watching. Is this proof that their voice acting is exceptional and I truly believed their voices as the character or, in fact as I suspect that celebrity voices aren't really need in animation if the script is good enough and are just there to pull in the crowds?
Mary and Max tells the story of Mary Dinkle, an 8 year old girl at the start of the film, who lives in Australia with her alcoholic mother. She doesn't have many friends and decides she'd like a pen pal. At random she picks out the name of Max Jerry Horowitz from a Manhattan phone book and writes to him. Max is also lonely, he's an overweight New Yorker who suffers from Asperger's Syndrome and anxiety attacks.
After a long wait, to Mary's delight, Max writes back and the two begin exchanging letters constantly as well as sending each other presents, usually unusual forms of chocolate which is one of the few things they have in common.
Over the course of their friendship Mary grows up and decides to write a book inspired by Max and his condition, not thinking how much it will upset him when he finds out. Could this be the end of their friendship or will they overcome it and will they ever meet? I don't want to give too much of the plot away, it surprised me in a number of places and this film was not at all what I was expecting. As you can imagine with Mary growing up a lot of things happen along the way, but at the risk of including spoilers I'll keep the plot brief.
The story of Mary and Max is good enough on it's own, it would be a gripping, heart warming and moving tale if it ware told using real actors in a straight forward way, however it's made an exceptional film by the unusual style in which it's told. For a start the claymation is fantastic, the film looks just brilliant. In fact you'll need to see it a few times to pick out all the detail as you just won't have enough eyes! The characters are quirky looking and cartoon like, but in such as way that you could really imagine what these people would look like if the were real. I think we've all seen a Mary and a Max at some point.
Don't go assuming, however, that because this is an animated film it's pretty and colourful and kid friendly, it's not. This film is virtually colourless and while a little off putting to begin with, you soon don't notice it, but it certainly adds a unique style and suggests as it should, that this is quite a serious story and the dark parts are made even more moving and atmospheric by the lack of colour.
In addition to the visual aspect, the fact that the story is told by letters to each other, we really get an understanding of the characters like you wouldn't get if this were told in any other way. You'd have to have a heart of stone not to warm to these to characters and ultimately really care what happens to them and their relationship. It's interesting too to see how they change throughout the story, particularly as Mary grows up. At the start, it's sweet and at times very funny the things that they talk about and the way that they misunderstand things in the world around them, Mary because she's a child and Max because he's a recluse. Some of the conversations had me in stitches and whilst this film has it's dark parts it's also incredibly funny. My favourite, an example is that Mary has a neighbour who she explains to Max is homophobic, which means he's scared to go out of his house!
Mary and Max not only is exciting visually, and has a great story but is also informative and raises a number of issues. It enlightened me to Asperger's Syndrome, and deals with issues including alcoholism and depression.
Essentially, it's a story about an unlikely friendship between a middle aged man and a little girl, and what I love it that it's all completely innocent. A friendship such as this these days would raise more than a few eyebrows as our society has become so cynical. And in fact this is commented on by the reaction of Mary's mother, though I won't give too much away. However it goes to show that true friendships can be formed regardless of age, where you're from and what issues you can and in fact can be strengthened by those differences.
In addition to this aspect of the friendship, the life story of Mary is incredible in itself, and would have made for an interesting film alone.
The best thing of all about Mary and Max is that this story is based on truth. I finished watching the film being very attached to Mary and Max, and whilst Mary is more fiction than fact, Max was based on a pen pal of writer director Adam Elliot who he had been writing to for over twenty years. I liked the fact that Max had really existed.
For me Mary and Max has everything and I guarantee you won't have seen anything like it before. The likelihood is you won't have caught it at the cinema as it was a strictly limited release over here, but make sure you catch it on DVD (it's available from the big online stores).
I can not recommend enough. The film is proof, if nothing else that an email with never replace how personal a letter can be.
Summary: A witty, quirky and moving story that tackles some important issues in an original way.