The first thing you should know about this cute claymation or stop-motion animated movie is that it’s not for children. Mary and Max is a curiously subversive movie exploring depression, existentialism, and the human condition. Balancing out all this doom and gloom with humor, it’s one of those movies that will stay with you. And the humor is authentic and refreshing, not going for the low-hanging fruit but actually coming up with original concepts. You can feel that somebody put a lot of thought into the script.
The movie is also visually striking and reminiscent of Tim Burton movies but only in some aspects. Mary and Max is a story about outcasts who are trying to get through another day with the power of friendship. It’s loaded with black humor and sarcasm, aiming squarely at the jaded part of the population, myself included. The part of the population that stared at the abyss and then started calling it home. And what might be too bleak for some will hit the right spot for others. And there aren’t many movies that can do that out there.
I think this is something that a lot of actors recognized when they agreed to lend their voices. You’ve got Toni Collette, Eric Bana, and Philip motherfucking Seymour Hoffman as lead characters! And the narrator is none other than Barry Humphries, an Australian comedian, and legend. I still can’t believe that this is Adam Elliot’s first movie. He wrote the script and directed this masterpiece so I can’t wait to see his next movie and what he’ll do now that he has a promising career in front of him.
Max is an overweight middle-aged man who suffers from Asperges Syndrome. He’s lonely and sad, but when he receives a letter from Australia his life will become a little better. The letter was from a little girl named Mary, who wanted to get in touch with someone from America and ask them where babies come from. This simple letter will change both of their lives.
I know, I know, it’s quite difficult to make that first step towards playing a movie like this. You know it’s going to be a bit difficult to watch despite the cute animation and lovely humor. However, if you make that first step into the unknown uncomfortable, I promise you won’t regret it. And this is not some of that “life begins outside your comfort zone bullshit” but satan’s honest truth. We all struggle with the same problems Mary and Max are trying to solve.
This tribal capitalist grindfest is not human-friendly. It chews people up and spits out husks no one wants to help. And despite all my misanthropy, I admit that human interaction is priceless. Right human interaction to be more precise. But I digress, as so often I do. Mary and Max is that type of movie, a thought-provoking gem that effortlessly makes you think. And value what you’ve got.
To pull this off without melodrama or emotional milking is a true feat of filmmaking. And a testament to the skill, talent, and dedication of everyone involved. As always I’m so fascinated with these claymation movies since so much work goes into a single minute of the movie. It makes you appreciate them even more. And if you thought that this is the only serious claymation or stop-motion movie for adults, you would be wrong as there’s $9.99. It’s also excellent so I do recommend you check it out.
Director: Adam Elliot
Writer: Adam Elliot
Cast: Toni Collette, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Eric Bana, Barry Humphries, Bethany Whitmore,
Fun Stuff: Adam Elliot has a “a pen-friend in New York who I’ve been writing to for over twenty years” and he was the source of inspiration behind the character of Max.