I never had a pen friend. Once we had to send a letter off in school to some selected person, but it never went anywhere after the first letter. Another time I made a friend on holiday and sent him a letter when I got back. Alas, no response and my pen friend attempts came to an abrupt end. With the internet you could say we all have pen friends of some kind however, through social sites it is hard to be truly alone on the internet. Mary and Max is a film set before we could instantly swap what we had for lunch with someone on the over side of the world though, and tells a story of two unlikely friends. An unlikely film it turned out to be, too.
Mary is a lonely eight year old girl with a distant father and alcoholic mother. She has a birth mark on her head the colour of poo and her only friend is a pet chicken. Max is a forty-four year old man who lives with pets and no friends of his own. He is overweight, depressed and needs everything in order. The two connect with their problems over letters after Mary picks his name from a phone book to find out where babies come from in America. We see the next twenty years unfold as they stay in touch, along with how their lives change for the better. It’s a story with an uplifting theme and the clay characters and settings help bring life to a rather serious topic of depression, anxiety, autism and loneliness. The topics keep this film firmly in the adult movie category. I was an emotional wreck by the end. I did cry during the first Pokemon movie, but this is different!
Mary and Max is a perfect blend of fun and misery. We see how people’s lives can be so mundane and monochrome, but then the dark comic deaths or the witty narration bring colour into the bleak plasticine world. Mary lives in sepia Australia as her favourite colour is brown, while Max sits in his grey apartment in grey New York. The colour red is the only thing which strikes out against the dull sets and it subtly conveys the connection between the two. It’s a beautiful film and the characters have personality and expression without saying much at all. Like The Pirates, it puts most cgi productions to shame. Seeing Max stand in the corner holding his head before gouging on a dozen chocolate hot dogs is one image which sticks long in the mind.
And the film is one which leaves a lasting impression. With the deep messages visualised and told without coming across patronising or complicated, it is a great film to view when studying the effects of the human mind. The film shows that no matter how bad things get, there is a place for everyone in the world and you’ll hope these two flawed characters will end up with a happy ending. The pacing can make things stall, but the characters will quickly brush away that brief moment of tedium with their dilemmas and solutions. Mary and Max is one of the greatest films on friendship I’ve seen, and they are on the other side of the world from each other.