Starring: Toni Colette, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Eric Bana
Director: Adam Elliot
Running Time: 93 mins
Mary And Max is an Australian film about a young girl in Melbourne who befriends a middle-aged man living in New York City through a series of heartfelt letters. When she discovers that she and Max share many tough similarities in their lives, their friendship blossoms as they continue to exchange stories and advice through the years.
For a film that starts out with a hundred poo jokes, it’s incredible to think how poetic Mary And Max really is. It’s an ingenious film with an exceptional sense of humour contrasted with some amazingly powerful and often terrifyingly depressing drama that will take you on a fascinating and memorable journey through the lives of two people unloved by the world around them.
There’s a lot that makes this film such a unique watch, from the dark humour to the ruthless drama, but a good place to start is the animation. With a visual style as broken and uncared for as Mary and Max’s lives, Adam Elliot does an incredible job to make everything about their world seem all the more depressing, yet by still retaining a slight cartoon touch, the degree of dark drama in this film almost seems surreal, and as a result, also funny to see.
And that’s where the film’s sense of humour really comes in. Yes, there are a lot of poo and wee jokes in the early stages, but the fact that Mary And Max is filled with that type of childish humour alongside some incredibly dark but intelligent jokes about child abuse, mental problems, broken dreams and even death makes it such an original experience, bringing together comedy from both ends of the spectrum and moulding them together ingeniously.
Yet the comedy isn’t even the half of what makes this film so great. As the story progresses, and Mary and Max’s friendship grows, leading to deeper and more personal subjects in their letters, the film takes a real turn towards an astonishingly dramatic side, featuring some of the most moving and poetic takes on some incredibly depressing subjects ever seen on screen.
It takes a while for the film to grow into this role, and a little longer for you as the viewer to adjust to what it’s all really about, being so much more than a simple black comedy, but once I began to come round to what Mary And Max was actually trying to say, it became such an impressive spectacle to see.
Never letting up in its second and final acts as to how dark it can go with its themes, this film is almost hard to watch at times, only balanced by interjections of its unique comedy. Adam Elliot directs with expertise, bringing stunning real-world emotion and drama to an animated film, whilst lead voice actors Toni Colette and Philip Seymour Hoffman also put everything into two very complex but fascinating characters, all coming together to make one of the most unforgettable (for better or worse) films in recent history, and that’s why I’m giving Mary And Max an 8.4.