MARY AND MAX is an amazing film, and all the more wonderful for being un-expectedly so. It's a darkly comic, emotionally raw clay-animated drama about the unlikely friendship between two very lonely people - a little girl called Mary, who lives in Australia, and an old man called Max, who lives in New York. Mary Daisy Dinkle is lonely because her mum is a mean drunk and her father is a withdrawn taxidermist. She hates how she looks, she's socially awkward and other kids tease her. Max is lonely because he finds the world strange and irrational and frustrating and retreats into a closed existence of comfort-eating and writing angry letters. They are each other's only and best friends.
The movie takes us from the early heady days of their friendship - the first not to involve an imaginary friend for both of them - through Mary's adolescence and marriage. The friendship blossoms, then flounders on betrayal, and is finally redeemed. The journey is genuinely moving - I cried like a baby at the end of the film - and I was happy to have spent time with these intriguing people despite the harsh material I was forced to endure - drug abuse, sexual infidelity, self-loathing, suicide and chronic disease.
If all this makes MARY AND MAX sound about as much fun as shock-therapy, then please believe me that despite the unbearable sadness as its heart, it's also a very funny, and ultimately uplifting film. The detail of the art design is wonderfully witty, with lots of clever details to repay a repeat viewing, and the verbal humour is at once pathetic and laugh-out-loud funny. I have always had nothing but praise for Philip Seymour Hoffman, but he really surpasses himself as Max, imbuing every sentence with common-sense, hurt, longing, fear and unintentional wit. Toni Colette is wonderfully misguided and sympathetic as Mary, and even Eric Bana gives a sweet cameo. So, if you love the kind of gentle, warm, heart-breaking humour found in the following quotations, please check MAX AND MARY out. As for me, I just can't wait to see what Australian writer-director Adam Eliot does next.
Max Jerry Horovitz: When I was young, I invented an invisible friend called Mr Ravioli. My psychiatrist says I don't need him anymore, so he just sits in the corner and reads.
Max Jerry Horovitz: Butts are bad because they wash out to sea, and fish smoke them and become nicotine-dependent.
MARY AND MAX played Sundance and Berlin 2009 and opened in Australia, the Czech Republic, New Zealand and Russia that year. It opened last year in Denmark, Belgium, Greece, Norway, Brazil, Sweden, Germany, Austria, Hungary and the UK. It is currently on release in Singapore and opens in Japan on April 23rd. It is available to rent and own.