Sunday, April 18, 2010

Movie Review: Mary and Max

Mary and Max 2009 (80 Minutes Claymation Animated Rated PG)
Featuring the voices of; Toni Collette, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Eric Bana, Barry Humphries, Bethany Whitmore, Renée Geyer and Ian 'Molly' Meldrum

I'm not quite sure what I was expecting from this claymation adventure when I sat down to watch it with the kids. Somehow I think I was expecting the sort of slapstick associated normally associated with Wallace and Gromit.

I certainly didn't expect the serious, emotive and thought-provoking material that was eventually delivered. In fact, the film was so serious in parts that I began my "30 second censorship countdown".

The Plot
In Short, the story concerns a little girl who lives in Australia and who has domestic issues which affect her circle of friends. She selects an unlikely pen-friend named Max, who lives in New York and who has aspergers with severe anxiety issues. The film deals with how their letters and thoughts affect each other and the right and wrong choices they make.

The Audience
I'm quite relaxed with censorship around my kids (aged 6 and 9). They've watched some fairly gory stuff (Aliens, The Passion) and some things with adult concepts and language (South Park - the word-censored tv version, not the movie). One of the few things gets me thinking about censorship is repeatable dangerous behaviour (the sort of thing you see on Jackass). The 30 second countdown says that if I feel uncomfortable and the situation doesn't change within 30 seconds then it gets turned off.

I initiated the 30 second censorship countdown but the disturbing scene was over long before I completed it.

Make no mistake. This is no "Wallace and Grommit" film. The characters have real emotions, some of which (depression) are quite strongly realized. Watch this film yourself before deciding whether to let your kids watch it.

The Comedy Factor
The humour in this film is mostly slapstick plus a bit of narrative contradiction. The narrator says one thing and the characters do the opposite.

It's certainly a laugh-out-loud film at times but not consistently. The comedy gives way to the story and at times it gets quite serious. Weirdly enough, my kids found their biggest laughs whenever Max's goldfish died. Some of the more obvious aspie humour, such as the "take a seat" example, went completely over their heads.

The film is mostly done in greys though every now and then a bright colour, generally red, breaks through.

What the Film Says about the Spectrum
(beware - possible spoilers in this section)
Probably the most amazing thing about this film is the way it covers aspergers. It kept surprising me. Initially I just expected Max to be an aspie-like character without any sign of a formal diagnosis (like Napoleon Dynamite) but the film goes on to not only say the word "Aspergers" but also give a potted explanation of what it means.

Later in the film, it takes a drastic turn in a direction which will horrify viewers. I really wasn't expecting this but the point that the film makes is a very good one and it's well worth sitting through a bit of unpleasantness for.

Mary and Max is an interesting, funny and thought-provoking film about Aspergers, isolation and chocolate and it gets a very high recommendation from me. Go see it!

Links to the Film
What the Rotten Tomatoes Critics are Saying: 90%
Internet Movie Database Entry
Amazon Entry


Incubus said...

I just finished watching the film and I have to say it made my brain smile.

Yes, the film has very sad moments but it is one of the greatest movies I have ever seen.

Thank you for informing me about it, without your blog I had it never seen.

Caitlin Wray said...

Thanks for highlighting this film Gavin, I had heard of it but knew nothing about it. My son is pretty naive for his age so I likely won't let him see it for a few years, but I'm looking forward to watching it myself. Plus I'm a huge Toni Collette fan :)

Adelaide Dupont said...

I guess goldfish dying are inherently funny.

I found that when I was reading Anastasia Krupnik - great book, that.

Mary and Max is an awesome film. Saw it once at the movies and once on DVD, about 6 months apart.

Love the satire in it and the poignancy. Many of the minor characters are very well drawn, but it is essentially a two-hander between Mary and Max.

Anonymous said...

Been following your blog for a while. Its really helped me get a handle on my Aspie husband's way of looking at the world. And Mary and Max was one of the most beautiful movies I have ever seen... Annie

Anonymous said...

hey!Very well said....the movie was awesome...i just watched it today...while searching in google about this movie,i came here...

Anonymous said...

I normally do not like animated type movies; however, this movie mokes me rethink the medium. Truly a beautiful movie. Twice the film that "up" was, should have won the academy award last year for best animated feature. One of the best, if not the best film I have ever seen.

Anonymous said...

I've got Aspergers. Although I felt Mary and Max was a beautiful film, and exceptionally well-crafted, as an Aspie, I found it quite tragic. Max passes with one distant friend with whom he has never met. Although Mary finds some sort of peace with the shrine-like treatment her correspondence receives, Max dies alone without meeting his friend.

I wish that Max would have been given some victories in life, a cigarette butt ordinance that was effective, or recognition for his recipes for example.

This was not an Aspie Triumphant film. This was an Aspie tragedy.

Bone Witch said...

His goldfish died.
His goldfish died.

I agree, this was a very depressing movie, and it will be a while before I let my kids watch it, but I did enjoy it thoroughly.

Kas said...

I got this movie on a whim from the library a while ago. My husband dug in his heels a little about having to watch it, but it changed our lives. My husband identified with a number of things about Max and it started the ball rolling to find out what was going on with him, he has now been diagnosed AS. I'm really glad to see these movies getting a kinda mainstream viewing. Another movie with a strong Aspie-ish character is "Mrs. Pettigrew lives for a day".

Miguel Palacio said...

Great movie! But I was sad about Max's passing before having met Mary in person.

Heena Mahajan said...

"Two infinite things- Universe and Man's Stupidity"

Recently got hold of this movie. Completely unaware of its existence, I started watching it. What really kicks me in the movie is the narrative style, the story - how it progresses through letters and the innocence of the friendship between Mary and Max.

The greys and blacks look fab on the screen and the all the characters speak individually. Everybody is on a different high in life which is fantastically expressed through the dialogues and narrative.

This movie is a perfect blend of comedy satire with full blushes of innocence, experience and loneliness.

I really like the contrast between the two lives still connected.

PS - Cant forget the Over-eater Anonymous Meetings and Chocolate Hotdog