Mary and Max (2009) is an Australian stop motion animated film from director Adam Eliot. The film tells the story of two pen pals who have never met. Mary is a lonely eight year old girl who lives a dysfunctional life in the suburbs of Melbourne. Max is a reclusive Aspergers sufferer living in a grim New York ghetto. The two become pen pals when Mary choses Max’s name at random from a phone book. The film follows the development of the characters and their relationship over many years.
Fig 1: Aspies for Freedom
Stylistically, the characters and environments are extremely exaggerated, and almost grotesque. This is perhaps a representation of the way the characters view themselves, the people around them and there environments. There are two distinct, but equally muted, colour pallets for the two locations in the film, New York and the Melbourne suburbs. Australia is a gloomy sepia tone representative of humdrum suburban life. New York has a hard egged, grimy, film noir inspired black and white tone.
Fig 2: Colour Pallet
The film explores adult themes with a darkly comic and witty sense of humour. Mental illness, anxiety, death, suicide, alcoholism and sex are not subjects usually considered suitable for animation but Eliot proves that, in the right hands, they certainly can be. Possibly, the reason this works is because of the innocents of the story telling style. Slant Magazine critic Chris Cabin echoes this suggestion, he states that: “Mary and Max should now finally be included in the list of recent animated films that deal head-on with bleak adult themes and yet bring out a wide-eyed wonder in their imaginative aesthetic” (Cabin2010).
Mary and Max impresses as a technical wonder in addition to being a beautifully told, adult and thematic story. The film balances realism, adult themes and dark comedy with a consistent heart-warming honesty.
Chris Cabin, Slant Magazine, Mary and Max, Movie Review, July 19th 2010, Available at: http://www.slantmagazine.com/dvd/review/mary-and-max/1776
Figure 1, Aspies for Freedom, Available at: http://lynmidnight.blogspot.com/2011/08/silly-sunday-snapshots-max-and-mary.html
Figure 2, Colour Pallet, Available at: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/showbiz/sftw/3191562/Alex-Zane-reviews-Mary-And-Max.html