Mary and Max
I find that the art of writing a letter is still alive. And I don’t mean typing an email you send to a friend for a recipe; I mean I genuine letter that you send via post. I grew up during the last big era where you needed to send post for a lot of things. I didn’t receive the Internet until 2000, so for example, when I saw a contest on Nickelodeon that brought me a sense of hope, I was always happy to fill out something in an attempt to win. Plus I really feel like that I received more birthday and Christmas cards back then.
I still get the cards, but some have recently been email cards. Does that make me angry? No, but I have always liked the feeling of anticipation around these periods; the simple idea of waiting for one’s regards. I think that in a society that moves very fast with our data, we really need to take a lot more time out of our actions to enjoy them. Post letters are something that I would like people to understand and appreciate more. Do children these days still have pen pals? One relationship is told through the letters they’ve sent each other in the wonderfully animated movie, Mary and Max.
It opens in 1976 in Mount Waverley, Australia. A young girl named Mary Daisy Dinkle is lonely as she lives with a poor family and is ridiculed by her peers at school for having a bad birthmark on her forehead. Her parents don’t have much support and her only friend is an agoraphobic World War II veteran who she helps collect mail for. Tired of having no friends, she decides to write to a random stranger in the states. By chance, she falls upon an autistic man in New York.
This obese forty-four year old man named Max Jerry Horowitz (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) lives on his own in a tiny apartment with no other friends. He decides to respond back to Mary and the two become friends. Over time, her questions about the adult world send him into a panic attack. This gets him institutionalized and diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. Now aware of what makes him socially awkward, he returns to writing back to his pen pal where their series of letters go back and forth for the next two decades.
First of all, I love the stop motion animation route that this movie took. And it’s not even like the Tim Burton style that we’ve seen before. This is a bleaker, more uninviting world were presented; Australia has dark monochrome colors while New York City is all black and white. This world is absolute crap, which gives us more support for the many letter-writing sessions. We are given this chance to get away from the intentional ugly societies as the story really opens up for some good character development between the two leads.
As characters go, I found both people to be rather interesting. Max is definitely a hoot to hear from, given his autistic behavior. Autistic characters have an interesting view on their world, and in the case of Max, his love of chocolate and television is just enough. Surprisingly, the darker character comes from Mary who not only has to have a sucky childhood, but her adult world becomes very shattered. I won’t give it away, but the ending will make you wonder whether or not Autistic people have a more general acceptance of life.
I will also mention that the Structure of Mary and Max is all bound in the letters that they send each other. I found this method to be more personal to the characters, therefore allowing a lot of originality to come through the dialogue.
I’ll give this four and a half letter stamps out of five. I’m surprised that a lot of people have never heard of this little Australian film; It’s got a lot of character to really stand out. Add that it’s also a clay-animated film, and you should really be enlightened by this.