Sunday, May 15, 2011

Mary and Max

Directed by Adam Elliot.
2009. Rated PG, 80 minutes.
Toni Collette
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Eric Bana
Bethany Whitmore
Barry Humphries
Renée Geyer
Ian “Molly” Meldrum

Mary Daisy Dinkle (Whitmore/Collette) is an eight year old girl living in Australia in the 1970s and is often left to her own devices. She develops lots of hobbies, eats lots of condensed milk straight from the can and watches lots of her favorite show, “The Noblets.” Unfortunately, her mom is drunk most of the time, her dad is usually at working or enjoying his own hobbies in the shed and Mary has no other friends. To change this, she decides to get a pen pal. To decide who the lucky, unsuspecting person will be, she randomly picks a name out of a New York City phone book. That name is Max Horowitz. She eagerly writes the first letter and mails it off.

Max is 44 years old, lives alone in New York and in many ways, is child-like. Like Mary, he spends lots of time eating his favorite food, in his case chocolate, and watching “The Noblets.” He also attends “Overeaters Anonymous” meetings and plays the lottery ever day, always the same number. When he receives Mary’s letter he’s taken aback, at first. Soon, he musters enough courage to return the gesture.

The pair continue to exchange the letters for the next three decades, through all the ups and downs of their lives. This long distance relationship frames their existnces, eventually coming to define them. Through the letters, they get to know each other in ways most people don’t. They truly become friends. The welcome side-effect is that we get to know them intimately, as well. They become our friends. We’re happy when they’re happy. We hurt when they do. A key moment comes when we find out that Max indeed has a diagnosed mental disability. However, this isn’t revealed to draw our sympathy. The real value is showing what effect this has on Mary. The heights and depths of her adult life seem to all stem from knowledge of Max’s affliction.

The question we desperately want answered is will they ever meet face to face? How this plays out is a brilliant and touching piece of film making. It’s not something we arrive upon easily, either. It’s truly a moment many years in the making. If you’re prone to crying at movies, keep the tissue handy. If you’re looking for hyperkinetic action, toilet humor and talking animal sidekicks, you’re in the wrong place. If you want to see two fabulously intertwined character studies, stay.

1 comment:

  1. I watched it this morning and I loved it. It is so charming and touching, and the use of colours is brilliant. Nice review!