I have now compiled a list of around 20 animated films not made by a major studio for my ongoing series and I just so happened to stumble across this film yesterday, I had surprisingly never heard of it before and upon discovering that it was an Australian animated film (something I’ve rarely come across in my life) I decided to bump it to the top of the list to review (it was either that or another French film, I’m telling you there’s a real influx of French/French Canadian independent animation studios!) oh, and it’s another stop motion animated film!
Mary and Max is produced by Australian studio; Melodrama Pictures and directed by: Adam Elliot.
For fans of: My Life as a Courgette, Anomalisa, Little Miss Sunshine
Mild Spoiler Warning
As I’ve said countless times before, I was nervous going into this film. Just from the monotonous colours within the film I knew that it was going to be existential and thought provoking and I won’t lie, I was worried that it was going to be too heavy for me, I didn’t fancy watching a film that would upset me today! but don’t worry, this film isn’t as gloomy as you’d expect.
Mary and Max is the story of an 8 year old Australian girl; named Mary Dinkle, who doesn’t have any friends, is an only child and has pretty neglectful parents. One day, she stumbles across a New York phone book and decides to ask “where do babies come from in America?” to a random person in the phone book, Mary randomly picks a Mr. M Horowitz, who we later find out is a 44-year-old man living in New York; Max Horowitz. Mary writes the typical nonsensical letter that any 8 year old child would write and sends it all the way to New York. Max, who we later find out has Aspergers Syndrome; (click here to learn more about Aspergers Syndrome) meaning he has trouble communicating and gets incredibly anxious, this causes him to be closed off from the world, with only his pets, his blind, elderly neighbour and his imaginary friend for company. So when Max receives Mary’s letter, he is happy to have finally found a friend, due to Max’s childlike nature, the letters that Mary receives back are of a similar innocent nature. The two then exchange letters through the highs and lows of their lives. Mary and Max is apparently based on real life events.
Where to start with this film, as mentioned before it’s refreshing to see an animated film made in Australia making it’s way over here, I don’t think I’ve watched an Australian animated film consciously before, when I look for films to use in this series I try to keep it as varied as I can to review a whole range of films, so I’m glad I found Mary and Max when I did. With this film being stop motion, it of course reminds me of Tim Burton’s animated films and films from the stop motion animated studio; Laika as both of them usually contain characters with exaggerated features in their designs. I’d like to say that this film can be for everyone but don’t be fooled, the film starts out almost like a Cbeebies (UK television network for young children) show with simplistic, rhythmic story telling accompanied with stop motion animation, however it goes on to occasionally contain some adult themes and in the long run; may be dull to children, it’s probably best for teens upward honestly, similar to My Life as a Courgette. There’s a great mix of childlike comedy which in the next minute turns into frank adult jokes which can be a little risky at times but none the less, both styles of comedy are just as funny as the other.
There’s a real heartfelt message in this film, I’m so pleased to see a film where Aspergers is treated as a normal thing, it’s honest (not sugar coated or exaggerated) it’s not used to make the audience feel unneeded sympathy for Max or as a way to make fun of him. I was worried that this film would take a dark turn that would alienate the audience and although it did have it’s dark times, it was mostly simplistic, honest, innocent storytelling, done through beautiful use of colours to demonstrate the difference between a child’s Australia and a middle aged man’s New York.
If anyone is now interested in this film, PLEASE look into it, be prepared to get attached to these characters to then feel a heavy heart and cry at the end (yeah, I cried a couple bittersweet tears!) it really is a sweet film worth your time.