Mary and Max is an independent film coming from Australia. While animated, this film
is definitely not a kids movie. But, before we get into the plot, let’s discuss the technical aspects. The film was directed and written by Adam Elliot, who “spent five years studying photography, painting, pottery” and other art forms. With an approximate budget of 8,240,000 Australian Dollars ($6,327,496 USD), filming in Melbourne lasted almost exactly one year: from July 2, 2007, to July 18, 2008. Mary and Max took on the world over a time span of two years; with strategic releases and festival appearances, it was only released in select cities and theaters. The film was released in the US, first at the Sundance Film Festival in January of 2009, in the city of Los Angeles in September of 2009, at the Chicago International Film Festival in October of 2008, at the San Diego Jewish Film Festival in February of 2010, and finally was released on DVD to the whole country in June of 2010. During its two years in the spot light, Mary and Max was nominated for eight awards and won four awards, such as “Best Animated Feature Film,” at the 2009 Asia Pacific Screen Awards, and Grand Prize at the 2009 Ottawa International Animation Festival.
Now onto the story of Mary and Max. Mary, voiced by Toni Collette and Bethany Whitmore (full cast), is an only child raised by her depressed father and alcoholic mother.
While Max, voiced by Philip Seymour Hoffman, is an old man with Asperger Syndrome who lives in Manhattan, New York. They meet in an unlikely way, well I say “meet” but really they only met through letters. Mary wonders where babies come from and decides to write to a random person in a Manhattan address book to ask. When Max writes back with a picture of himself enclosed, Mary’s mothers freaks out and throws away the letter, worried that a pedophile is trying to toy with her daughter. Mary finds the letter and continues to write back and forth with her new pen pal. The two send each other gifts such as chocolates and advice. When Mary gets older, her father passes and leaves enough money for her to go to college. There, she studies mental illnesses in hopes of finding a cure for Max. Then, her mother’s bad habit catches up with her and she too dies. With all of the unfortunate events in her life, Mary finds one good thing in her year when she marries her extremely effeminate neighbor, Damien.
When Mary finally finishes her studies on Asperger Syndrome, she publishes a book with Max, unknown to him, as her subject of study. Max becomes infuriated with this revelation and Mary, upset that she hurt one of her only friends, shreds all copies of her book before publication and sinks into a deep, alcohol-filled, depression. Damian decides to leave Mary to live with his pen pal on his sheep farm in New Zealand. Once Max decides to forgive Mary, she is pulled out of her depression and starts up her savings to go visit her old friend Max, only to find that he has died on his couch starring up at all of Mary’s letters on his ceiling.
When I first watched this film, I was not sure what to think, other than how sad this seemed. After enough time to contemplate the meaning behind the story, I realized what it all meant. Mary and Max were two completely different people yet very similar at the same time. Neither had any friends but found friendship within each other. I guess that sometimes perfect strangers make the best friends. So, while this may not be the perfect date night movie, I do highly encourage you to watch the trailer, rent the movie, grab a bag of popcorn, and enjoy!