Sunday 7 July 2013

Mary & Max (2009)

My friends Cassandra and Fnord recommended me this film, and lent me a copy, urging me to watch it without my first finding out anything about it.  When I saw them next, they lent me another copy, and it became apparent that they thought I should see it, and would enjoy it.  Now, Cassandra and Fnord make very good recommendations, and know me as well as anybody can be said to, so I found some time and lent it my attention, and oughtn't to have been surprised when it turned out to be excellent.

It tells the story of Mary, a young girl in a sepia-toned Australia striking up an unlikely pen-friendship with Max, a middle-aged man in monochrome New York.  Mary is lonely but habitually optimistic while Max is weary, socially awkward and extremely solitary.  Despite the fact that
both live rather bleak lives filled with tragedy, the story of their friendship manages to be light, fun and charming, though always terribly sad.

Mary, with her rooster Ethel.  Her favourite colour is brown.
The film plays into a few of my interests quietly indulges my love of toilet humour and cheery grotesquery.  From the off we learn that Mary has a birth-mark 'the colour of poo', and that her father has retired to his shed to taxidermise alarmed-looking birds he's found.  It's never horrid or disgusting, but borders on the naughty.

The whole film is led by a narrator, the calm and reassuring Barry Humphries, with the vast majority of dialogue either given in his affable narration or in the letters written from Mary to Max or typed in return.  Were the images not so compelling - fascinating, blanched and misshapen claymation - one could almost enjoy the work entirely on audio.  The film doesn't hurry to make its points, but takes its time showing to show us beautiful things.

One of Max's lists.
The characters are few, meaning we grow to know Mary and Max extremely well as the former grows older and the latter broader.  We see calamities in their surroundings and their friendship that they can't see or understand, and I, at least, spent half the film hoping they could one day meet in person, and the latter half fearing that such a difficult meeting had grown inevitable.

I've already described it as beautiful, sad, fun and charming, and don't particularly like to repeat myself, nor want to inflict thesaurus-scrapings on you, but I don't think I can better describe the film than that.  There's plenty more to it that I'd love to enthuse about, but it's better that you see it for yourself.

Here it is on shiny disc, if you have the urge.  Some nice looking extras on there, too, but I really do commend the main feature to you.

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