Friday, January 24, 2014

MARY AND MAX will rip your heart out, but you should watch it anyway

It streams for you here.

I am not one naturally drawn to claymation, or any "mation," for that matter. Sorry, Wallace and Grommit. My apologies, Everything Pixar Has Ever Made. But every once in a while, when I am, well, the verb that comes to mind is coerced (thanks, baby!), to watch an exceptional animated film, my heart explodes right out of my chest. Mary and Max is one of those films.

The movie indicates in the opening titles that it is "Based on a True Story." I never know what that means, and I don't care to know what that means especially in this case, because there is nothing more true than a story about two lonely people who find each other against all geographical and demographical odds. Mary and Max begins when Mary,

a socially awkward eight-year-old living in Australia (voiced by Toni Collette)

randomly chooses to write a letter to Max

Philip "I can do anything" Seymour Hoffman

a clinically socially-awkward forty-something living in New York City in the 70s. She asks him where babies come from. They both end up finding out where life comes from--sustaining and authentic connections with other people.

Throughout the course of their multi-year correspondence, both Mary and Max make each other laugh, make each other think, and make a few big mistakes. They hurt each others' feelings and misunderstand each other and lose hope. Sometimes Mary and Max aren't careful enough with themselves, and sometimes they're too careful, but they always give each other chocolate and drawings and a reason to keep writing. I won't tell you if they ever meet, but they learn much more about each other through writing than some people who have "known" each other their whole lives.

Mary and Max is a movie where the medium is a perfect complement to the content. Though the two main characters are at times unbearably lonely, the sets the filmmakers created are bursting with life.

There are fish and phones and chocolate and blenders

and mimes

and roosters named Ethyl

and flowers and trees and neighbors voiced by Eric Bana.    

 It's a lovely materialist reminder that no matter how lonely you feel, the world is fundamentally more giving than not.

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