Thursday, 15 January 2015

Mary and Max (2009) Film Review

Mary and Max, The unusually dark clay-mation comedy, was directed by Adam Elliot and released in 2009. Adam Elliot is an Australian animation writer and director. He calls the style of his work 'clayographies' (clay biographies), and uses his medium to tell stories of real life human struggles. Although it is slightly less usual to use stop motion for more adult purposes, his often greyscale colour  palettes and use of "in camera" techniques (meaning no special effects added, the whole of each world is created by hand) mean that his truthful characters are fully absorbed into the sets he creates. After all, it is easier to believe that a character is struggling with his own existence if the world around him is believable. His other film credits include the trilogy of Brother, Cousin and Uncle, with characters based loosely on members of his own family, such as his cousin with Cerebral Palsy. His films have not gone unrecognized and have won him four AFI awards, an academy award and Mary and Max was the first Australian, and first animated film to open the Sundance Film Festival, proving that his unique approach to animated story telling has put him in the league of conventional film directors.

  Mary and Max follows the story of the friendship between a young Australian girl called Mary (voiced by Bethany Whitmore) and a lone New Yorker called Max (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Mary discovers Max's address by randomly looking in the phone book and they begin to exchange letters. As their friendship grows and time goes on they begin to reveal more to each other. Mary tells Max of how she is being bullied at school, and Max tells Mary about his anxiety and how he suffers from Asperger's. Their friendship to each other becomes more important as times get rougher and the film starts to explore themes such as depression, child neglect and mental illness. The pacing of the film allows for charm and wit throughout, even when dealing with the more serious themes.

  I hold this film in high regard, in the way it deals with its themes. The characters are introduced in their own worlds, where they are most comfortable, and in which we find their quirks charming as apposed to against the social norms. It is not until later on we start to understand the reason behind the way they are, and by this time with have already empathized with them. The film is consistently witty enough to be able to see the light through the dark situations and the fact it is animation means perhaps that it opens up these more serious themes to a different audience. The intricate sets in the animation and the well developed characters with all their quirks make the film utterly submersive and I would highly recommend it to a whole host of audiences.

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