"Mary and Max" DVD, Blu-ray Review

6/17/2010 Posted by Admin

"Mary and Max"

DVD, Blu-ray Review

Directed by Adam Elliot, Written by Elliot, 90 Minutes, Not Rated

By our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti


Australian director Adam Elliot's first feature film, "Mary and Max," is really something special. Filmed in meticulously detailed claymation, the film follows two idiosyncratic outsiders, Mary Dinkle and Max Horowitz. Mary lives in Australia, Max in New York City, and when Mary happens upon Max's address in a phone book, she writes him, first asking about America, but soon the relationship develops and the two pen pals know each other better than anyone.

Through the letters, we learn everything about these two characters. We see Mary grow up with her alcoholic mother and distant father, incapable of making friends and desperate to make some sort of difference. Max, much older than Mary, lives alone in his NYC apartment, his only friend being his blind neighbor Ivy and his pets, a parrot, a stray cat and a series of goldfish named after Henry VIII.

The two connect on a profound level, writing to each other for twenty years, telling each other of their various ups and downs and trying to make sense of the human condition.

The film is told in fairly simple vignettes by various narrators. The characters of Mary and Max are voiced by Toni Collette and Philip Seymour Hoffman, and the narrator in between the letter segments is voiced by Barry Humphries. These three voices are among the few heard in the film, making for an interesting and intimate sort of style of storytelling.

Anyone seeing the animation and expecting some sort of light family film should think again. The film, though comedic, is far from light material, heading into very dark territory, including alcoholism, depression, mental illness, death and suicide. The character of Max is diagnosed early in the film with Asperger's syndrome, and the film heavily discusses the nature of the disorder (albeit subtly). It's probably the best depiction of the syndrome yet done in film.

The animation is very impressive, with washed-out reds and browns making up Mary's setting and a stark black-and-white making up Max's (perhaps a display of Max's personal moral code, but also perfect for the New York setting), and the letters remaining their respective colors even after being sent into the other setting is a pretty clever motif.

It's quite a fine effort for a first feature, and I think Elliot has a bright future ahead of him. It's pretty bleak material, but he manages to counter all the dread and depression with wonder and hope, and ultimately it's a rather life-affirming piece of work, and I can see it being really great for those feeling down about their current situation. It's not perfect, but even the film admits nothing is.

Grade: B+

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2 comments:

  1. Hrushi said...

    alcoholism, mental illness.... :@ I doubt if I'd love an animated film like that! :O

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