Mary and Max (2009)

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I never thought shaun-the-sheep-ish claymation (like… animation movie employing clay and stop-motion) can bear kinds of in-depth theme, which is… deep. Well, things change when I finally watched Mary and Max, which amazingly bears a profoundly heartbreaking theme about friendship.

Mary and Max is an Australian claymation written and directed by Adam Elliot (known for his troubling short feature “Harvie Krumpet“). I can simply define this movie as being funny in (1) portraying the characters, as well as (2) honestly presenting the story. As soon as the movie begins, we’re introduced to Mary Daisie Dinkle (voiced by Bethanie Withmore and, later, by Toni Collette), an 8-year-old lonesome Australian girl living in the suburbs of Melbourne, and Max Jerry Horowitz (voiced by Philip Seymour Hoffman), a 44-year-old obese man suffering from Asperger’s syndrome. Friendless Mary in his boredom begins to write a letter to Max, whose address she randomly gets from a rip of NY Yellow Pages. When finally Max replies Mary’s letter (although it troubles him in the beginning), both of them begins to share their problems and stories till they finally find a meaning of ‘real friend’. Their intercontinental and inter-generation penfriendship continues for 20 years ranging from 1976 to 1994 upon many ups and downs.

To be honest, I like the way the story being told: humble, honest, and narrated by a gentle but talky narrator (voiced by Barry Humphries). Although it is too bleak, it helps me undestanding the state of mind of each character, Well, there are also plenty things I’m fond of. The depiction of how terrible the characters’ life; Mary’s, with her uncaring family and a birthmark that she considers the reason why people away from her, and Max’, with his anxiety and anti-social behavior. Well, how Mary naively writes her letter to Max–asking things that triggers an anxiety attack on Max–makes this film unconditionally funny; or, how Max replies Mary’s naive question with his unpredictable answers sometimes successfully put smiles on audience’s face.

As a character-driven movie, Mary and Max is something ironic but honest. The pacing of this movie is rather confusing, nonetheless, it is easy to follow how interesting the pathetic life of each character is. Only by seeing how colours are utilized in this movie–simple grayscale with some highlights on red family–we can just simply know how gloomy, dark, and colour-less the life of its character. I find this story ironic in the way each character is connected. For instance, Mary could easily get connected to Max, despite of their million miles distance; meanwhile, Mary could not get along with her neighbours to some extent–her eventual future, stutter Damian Popodopoulos (voiced by Eric Bana) and agoraphobic old Len; while, Max finds it difficult to get companion in his ignorant New York.

Referring this to Adam Elliot’s previous work, Oscar-winning Harvie Krumpet, prior to Mary and Max is, I consider, inevitable. While Harvie Krumpet honestly shows how to “live to the end” through an act of being optimistic, Mary and Max remarkably shows how to survive a complex “who-can-predict” life through friendship–a deep, apprehensive theme. Adam Elliot really knows how to put “self-loathing” sense to his characters as seen in both movies in which all protagonists are living their unfortunate life only to reveal the “gold” within them. I perceive that as a kind of sympathy-driven motives of making a more insightful animated movie–entertaining yet touching.

Mary and Max is an animation we can laugh at or cry for. It is honest and dictating, not once it becomes boring. Yet, underneath it all, Mary and Max is a movie you should be symphatetic from the very beginning to its tear-ridden ending that may touch your heart (or at least mine). I don’t say it’s genious to drive audience’s emotions the way this movie does; however, it’s clever to dig up a common theme like friendship in a way we haven’t ever thought before.

TITLE: Mary and Max


DIRECTOR: Adam Elliot / GENRE: Drama, Comedy, Animation / WRITER: Adam Elliot / CINEMATOGRAPHER: Gerald Thompson / MUSIC: Dale Cornelius / FILM EDITOR: Bill Murphy / CASTS: Toni Collette, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Eric Bana, Barry Humphries, Bethany Whitmore

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