Director: Adam Elliot
Written by: Adam Elliot
Starring: Toni Collette, Eric Bana, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Barry Humphries
Rated PG-13 for sexual content and mature thematic elements
My daughter Rose plucked this off the video rental shelf, saying she watched it after it showed up in her Netflix movie recommendation. She described it as being about a penpal friendship developed between an 8-year-old lonely Australian girl and a 40-year-old lonely New York man. They correspond for 20 years and we see how their lives are changed.
I would tell you more of the plot but that sums it up well enough. It probably is best categorized as a black comedy. There is plenty of humor, some of it rather subtle, although the movie often surprises with how serious some of the subject matter is and the depth to which the filmmaker is willing to explore it. This is all aided by the fact that Mary and Max are each, in their own way, complete innocents who write exactly what they are thinking, whether it will hurt or confuse the other person or not. This results in confuzzlement* not only for the main characters but also for the viewer at times. At one point I realized I was hanging on for dear life to the idea that the story would take a turn for the better. In fact, just like real life, the movie takes us through the comic and tragic which often are intertwined ... and does it brilliantly.
Although animated, this is not (repeat: NOT) a film for children. It is a stop-motion, claymation depiction of a story intended for adult audiences.
It also is the film that made me realize if the definition of an extrovert is someone who must discuss ideas aloud to understand them, then I am an extrovert. I was really not sure what I thought of this movie until after the entire family's animated discussion which followed for the rest of the evening. That conversation greatly clarified my thoughts, especially as everyone had been struck by different points.
At one point I asked, "Is it a movie to recommend to others?" Tom instantly responded, "It is a move that must be seen by anyone who values a richly told story." He is right. It is a film for those who are interested in richly told stories that are not afraid to explore the heights and depths that imperfection, perception, and sheer humanity bring to our lives and the lives of those we touch (even if simply through letters). In fact, I imagine that at some point I will be watching this again to see more of the details and subtleties I missed the first time around. First though, I must have time to let this sink in more fully. It's that kind of a movie.
*Confuzzlement: confusion + puzzlement. Watch the movie. You'll see where it comes from. It is now a new household term for us.