Film Review - Mary and Max

fig 1. Mary and Max Film Poster
fig 2. Mary and Max title shot, Mary's neighborhood
In darkly coy fashion the 2009 full claymation film Mary & Max picks up that of which Harvie Krumpet (2002) did not have the time to do. Both Directed by Adam Elliot, the style of Mary and Max poses less to distract and more to aide the story of two lonely individuals from two completely different backgrounds become friends and eventually part ways. Mary and Max touches on sensitivities of mental health, disability and how we internally perceive the external using the desolate absence of fairytale magic to grimly show reality through the characters' eyes.
          Though using clay, Mary and Max is less of a Wallace & Gromit and more of a Grizzly Tales for Gruesome Kids type of film. The characters' lives are contrasted with a warm (for Mary) and cold (for Max) hue, that does not go away even when the two eventually cross paths. Alongside the colour contrast the two characters differ immensely: Mary; being an eight year old Australian girl, and Max; a fourty four year old obese man living in New York. The only similarities they do share between one another is that of loneliness and unfortunate upbringing. Some - tedious and common, such as bullying in school, compared to more serious events that we see unfold as the 1 hour 30 minute film progresses. It must be said that it is not afraid to dive headfirst into issues that other films may either romanticize or play-down, but approaches them maturely, not to make a joke in the wrong place.
fig 3. "teers for max"
           With a few references to Doris Day and Audrey Hepburn, they often felt misplaced and cheap compared to the rest of Mary and Max. However, as Que Sera Sera plays over the top of Mary's lowest point it brings attention to the lyrics being relatable to any young girl who had optimism for the future; contrasted by Mary realising that future and the effect of it.
            The world of Mary and Max is set in a pseudo-modern time, phones not yet obsessively part of everyday life and so the two characters write back and forth between Australia and New York. A story usually revolving around long-distance involves two characters who are very similar; yet separated and unable to meet - often to create relatability to those in a similar situation. Director Adam Elliot however went for an approach in which both characters are vastly different. Though about how Mary and Max interact, we find far more out about their individual lives as the story progresses and how they become the people they do. Not only does it bring them together in the end, but equally tears them apart as the realities of their lives become all too much. The magic moment of "I can help you!" never arises, and even when the attempt is made; for example when Mary publishes a book on Aspergers, using Max as a case study; her intentions become shrouded in confusion. It highlights how simple acts even in attempts to help can become misinterpreted by those with Aspergers. As well as those who attempt to "cure" those of something that seems as permanent as an eye colour.
         It becomes increasingly obvious that Max represents those with a disability, whether that be mental or physical. Mary on the other hand shows the life of a girl growing up who has a host of external problems around her.  Instead of tackling both separately, Mary and Max uses each character to represent a wide audience yet still manages to appropriately bring to light what they experience. So much goes wrong over the course of their lives but does not seem reductive in execution. In this way Elliot does well to make Mary and Max accessible to watch by people struggling similar matters regardless how big or small.


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