There are many movies that will make you cry. Few movies, however, make you cry with happiness. This is one of the few.
Mary and Max is about an unlikely friendship between two people in opposite parts of the world. Mary is a lonely eight-year-old girl who lives in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia. One day she picks a random name out of an American phone book and writes a letter asking about life in America. She gets an answer from Max, an obese, 44-year-old man with Asperger’s syndrome. Over a series of letters spanning 20 years these two outcasts become the best of friends, supporting each other through life’s difficult moments.
While this film could have easily felt morose with its gloomy color scheme of brown, white, and black with an occasional burst of red, the tone is kept cheerful with funny lines, like when a young Mary is telling Max about her neighbor:
“He’s scared of outside, which is a disease called homophobia.”
Although Mary and Max have dreary lives, they don’t wallow in self-pity. Instead they share with each other their unique observations about life and its mysteries, like where babies come from, why old ladies have blue hair, and what love is. They just shrug it off while they try to figure out how to fit in this strange world that doesn’t quite know what to do with them.
This search for meaning is represented perfectly in the fully claymation technique which took 57 weeks to shoot. Everything is so detailed, even the claymation grass looks realistic. Half of the fun of watching this film is looking for tiny things that reveal new insights about this world and its eccentric characters. The characters themselves have very expressive faces and no two look alike. It’s obvious that the director has put a lot of time and effort into creating this fictional world, so much so that it almost feels real. The music score complements this film nicely, nothing jarring you out of the scene. The music carries the emotions of the characters across, enhancing the visuals. One example of this is the scene when Max sits down at his typewriter and begins typing his letter. The frenzied motion of his fingers moving across the machine is paired perfectly with equally frenzied music.
Having seen many different movies throughout my life, I can honestly say this movie is unique in the true dictionary sense of the word. This movie took me by surprise; I was expecting a kid’s movie but it is so much more than that. From the moment you meet Mary and Max you are swept on an emotional journey spanning all the way from Australia to New York City. You watch two misfits go through the trials and tribulations of life in a world where they struggle to belong. It’s a story we have all experienced at some point in our lives, and without our friends we wouldn’t be able to tell it.