- 03 Nov 10
A wise, visually unique, emotional gem of a film that will leave you wondering how two clay figures damn near broke your heart.
The most delectably offbeat and heart-warming friendship movie of recent memory involves a most unlikely pairing. Mary is a young Australian with distant, dysfunctional parents, a birthmark that provokes relentless bullying, and an unrequited love for the boy across the street. Max is a middle aged, Asperger’s sufferer from New York, with a binge disorder and violent hatred for people who litter. Through a serendipitous pen-pal request, they discover their one shared trait: the aching need for a friend.
Mary and Max’s twenty year relationship is a visual one and the noticeable lack of dialogue in the film highlights the isolation of these exquisitely rendered Claymation characters. Barry Humphries’ dryly mischievous narration is lengthy but never wears out its welcome, and the two stars’ vocal performances are impeccable. Bethany Whitmore sings her way through Mary’s innocent questions (“If a cab driver goes backwards, does he owe you money?”) and childish misunderstandings (“He’s scared of outside, which is a disease called homophobia”) while Seymour Hoffman’s gruff complexity is perfect for Max’s deadpan non-sequiturs (“I was once a member of the Communist party. Have you ever been a Communist? Have you ever been attacked by a crow or similar large bird?”) Their individual worlds differ in palette, with Mary’s sepia toned life occasionally brightened by splashes of red, while Max’s bleak existence is emphasised by his monochrome surroundings. Both worlds are breathtakingly evoked.
Mary and Max should not be mistaken for a kids’ film. The unusual friendship between Mary and Max explores the depths of social fear, depression and mental illness, and though the film is constantly and uproariously funny, the humor is dark. Those adults brave enough to confront the perils of animation will be treated to a wise, visually unique, emotional gem of a film that will leave you wondering how two clay figures damn near broke your heart.