I don’t know why I started watching Mary and Max. Just hearing the name makes you think of perhaps a twee little children’s programme. It is, however, anything but that. And it’s not a children’s show. Its clay animation movie. (SPOILERS BELOW!)
Mary, the main girl in the story, is a Australian girl in the 1970s. She has serious issues with her self-esteem and she doesn’t have any friends. She passes the time making her toys; a set of Nobletts which are the basis of a popular television programme but Mary can’t afford to buy the proper toys. She has a dreary life; her father works in a factory and her mother loves getting drunk on sherry. Mary has aspirations to marry a man called Earl Grey and settle down to live in a Scottish castle.
Mary’s mother clearly doesn’t love her, as she says frequently that she was an ‘accident’ and that is never something that a child should be told. Now, Mary begins writing to Max when she is reading the phone-book while in the post-office while her mother steals envelopes. Max lives in New York and loves the Nobletts TV programme. He has serious insomnia; often using food as a comfort. He is also morbidly obese. The letters begin just as simple questions, such as asking where babies come from.
Mary believes that babies are born from beer glasses but Max corrects her and amusingly tells her that babies are born out of eggs laid by either rabbis, nuns or prostitutes. The sad thing is that Max admits that he can’t understand people, but he trusts Mary. Mary has no friends, and is bullied. One bully urinates on her sandwich and taunts her that she uses clothes pegs on her coat instead of buttons. She doesn’t ask her mum or dad for advice about the bullies. Instead she writes to Max, and asks his advice. He also proceeds to give Mary other advice on irreverent topics such as turtles.
They begin exchanging presents such as various varieties of chocolates. Mary even makes Max a pompom which he wears in his hat. He, too, knows how awful it is to be bullied; being terrorized by others for being a Jew. He also lost his parents at a young age.
Mary begins falling in love with her neighbour, Damian (voiced by Eric Bana) and Max realizes that he feels love but cannot express it. He is later institutionalised, and continues to have an imaginary friend. After all, in his mind, it is best to have an imaginary friend rather than a real one.
He wins some money on the lottery, and spends it on a lifetime supply of chocolate and gives some money to Ivy, his blind neighbour. However, she dies and the money is given to a cat charity. The owner takes all the money for himself. I think that this obliquely shows the hypocrisy of human nature.
Max further explains to Mary that he has Asperger’s syndrome but he doesn’t feel the need to be cured. He, however, wishes he could cry like any normal person does, so Mary sends him her tears in a bottle. I think that this film throws up a lot of complex issues. Max is clearly confused about the hypocrisy of the human race, and he asks questions such as why do people waste food when there are so many starving?
The relationship between Damian and Mary escalates, and she clearly loves him more and more. Her father dies while metal detecting, and Mary attends university with the money she inherits from her father. However, Mary’s mother Vera copes with the death by her prolific drinking and she ends up dying horribly (to be honest, it was the one scene I hated in the movie.)
Damian and Mary get married, but Damian isn’t interested in sex. Mary uses Max’s autism as a case for her psychology dissertation. However, Max becomes angry at this and it results in Mary pulping the copy of the book she was going to publish about autism. As a result, she becomes depressed but fears that she will turn out like her mother. She almost takes an overdose of Valium. Unknown to her, she is pregnant.
Damian runs off with his penfriend from New Zealand, Desmond, and they run a sheep farm together. Max forgives Mary by sending her his Noblet collection. Mary’s acrophonic neighbour, Len, conquers his fear and brings her the parcel. It is revealed that Max forgave Mary because she is imperfect and so is he. We have to live with our flaws but we can chose our friends.
The ending is the most moving bit of the film because Mary finally goes to New York to visit Max (bringing with her her baby son, who I assume will be called Max if the rules of dramatic irony are anything to go by.) and she goes into his apartment, only to find that he has passed away. But the moment I started crying was when it is revealed that the entire ceiling of his apartment is covered by the letters that she sent. What did you think of the film? I’d like to know your opinions!