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4.8 out of 5 stars127
4.8 out of 5 stars
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47 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on 10 April 2010
This movie is a good old-fashioned animated story about an ostracized Australian girl and an American with undiagnosed Asperger syndrome. The story revolves around the letters they sent each other, a dialogue that began when the girl chose an american name at random to ask where babies come from. As the story evolves Mary grows up and Max descends into his syndrome. Weird as it may sound, this movie is both fun and touching. It's also one I gladly see again.

I'd say you'd have to be at least on your way to be a "grown up" to enjoy it, several scenes in the movie are in the category "difficult to explain to children".
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on 27 July 2011
I expected this to be not very good, normally I am a bit bored by animations, though I do like Nick Park and The Wrong Trousers.

What I got was an unexpected gem in this film that made me cry. How many animations can do that unless you cry easily?

This is about a girl who lives in Australia. She is very lonely, with a drunken detached mother and equally uninvolved father. She is bullied and her only friend seems to be her little dog.

So, she picks a random name from the phone book, and lands on Max Horowitz from New York, and sets out to be his pen friend.

She chooses well, because Max is 40, and equally lonely. They both have unhappy lives, and it's painful and touching to watch.

Max, far, far, far from being a perv or writing anything remotely creepy (although rather candid), is so happy to hear from Mary, and he takes time to write her back, loads, about his life, and the rest.

They are both totally honest with each other, which is refreshing in this day and age of internet profile pages full of lies and superficiality, and neither wants something from the other apart from a friend.

Mary sends him a bright red pom pom (she always puts treats in with her letters, which is also touching), and Max wears it from the moment he receives it.

On so many levels you'd write off the fact a 40 year old lonely man who is writing a young girl as wrong or creepy, but this film just manages to make it nothing but touching, not an easy task in this day of 'everyone you don't know is a paedo' mentality.

The film reminds us that people can be good, that adults can be kind to young people without having some dirty ulterior motive, and also, that no matter how bad it gets, and life can get really bad, that there is always some small reason to keep on, some hope.

Films like this renew my faith in people, and what more can you ask for?

Beautiful, touching, funny, and flawless.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 5 June 2010
I saw this film at the bradford animation festival before it was released on blu-ray and this is what i thought at the time and is still true now.
also if you're worried it wont play on a UK Blu Ray player, it will. it played fine on my PS3.

"That night the first feature was screened- "Mary & Max". It blew my mind, the naive perspective of the child allows the audience to connect with the emotional journey of the films two main characters. Thats the beauty of animation, Mary & Max could handle the themes of mental illness in such a way that it was comic, but not mocking, and powerful, but not preachy. An authentic representation of day to day worries but displayed in the context of an entire lifetime. The narrative cleverly jumps around between the two characters and their pasts through the letters they exchange and the dialogue of each overlaid on the flashbacks. A thing of beauty. Another australian film, from melbourne this time. So many Australian animations, French too."

please watch this, its very very good. dont be fooled by the medium though, this is for adults.

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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on 25 October 2010
In recent years there has been a rapid decline in the output of clay animation films. This would appear to be due to the huge increase in CGI animation films from Hollywood, such as Wall E (Andrew Stanton,2008), Up (Pete Docter and Bob Peterson, 2009) and Toy Story 3 (Lee Unkrich, 2010) to name but a few. The highly polished, glossy sheen of these films seems to have made the homemade, hand-crafted aesthetic of clay animation a thing of the past. Not, that I am criticising the above mentioned films, on the contrary, I am a huge fan of each, all three being shining examples of just how charming and moving, huge budget Hollywood CGI movies can be when placed in the right hands. However, it is still saddening to see such an imbalance of animation styles on our screens these days.

Thankfully, Adam Elliot's latest clay animation or `clayography' Mary and Max goes someway to redress this balance. A film of astonishing beauty, Mary and Max is undoubtedly one of THE films of the year. Taking place over the course of twenty years and spanning two continents, the film follows the relationship of pen pals Mary, an eight year old child from Australia, and Max, a forty four year old Jewish man living in New York, suffering from Aspergers syndrome. Through this relationship, Elliot explores the film's central themes of loneliness, mental illness, love and friendship, all with a deft balance of humour, sadness and subtlety.

Firstly, the clay animation is absolutely impeccable. With an aesthetic that is deceptively child-like, one could easily overlook just how painstaking a process the animation in Mary and Max must have been. This is certainly to the animators and director's credit, as the style is never too showy or distracting from the unfolding story. Instead, it draws its audience in delicately, allowing its tones and shades to assist in setting the mood.

The balance between the child-like tone and the film's adult central themes is superbly offset by the narration provided by Barry Humphries, lending itself perfectly to the style of the animation, and allowing the story to be told in way that would be equally fitting to a child's fairy tale. This is also true of the vocal talent provided by Toni Collette and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Mary and Max respectively, with each adding an extra layer of depth to their characterisation.

The combination of each of these elements makes for a truly exceptional piece of work. Although there are moments of heart-wrenching sadness and a lingering sense of melancholic loneliness throughout, there are also enough moments of quirky humour and touching tenderness to render Mary and Max, at times both uplifting and heart-warming. The depth and development of each and every character engages with the viewer in a manner, which would usually seem impossible through animation, such is the strength of Elliot's script.

For me, Mary and Max should be held in the same regard as Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) as a genuine classic of the clay animation genre. As a genre which is growing ever more redundant at the hand of Hollywood studios' penchant for big budget 3D and CGI animations, gems such as Mary and Max will inevitably become an even rarer commodity in contemporary cinema, which is why EVERYONE should go see this film at least twice! It really is that good.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Mary is only 8 years old but she already has insecurities. Her facial birthmark has made her a shy girl with few friends, her home life is dysfunctional with a father she rarely speaks to and an alcoholic mother who shoplifts. It's a lonely existence but through the random selection of a name she makes a friend by writing to a stranger in New York...

It's clear that her new friend Max Horowitz is a unique character, he's a middle aged man with a history of mental illness, despite the thirty-plus years which separate them they both share an innocent and naïve view of the world and through discussions about chocolate and favourite words they form a bond. Some of the questions the young Mary asks Max trigger 'meltdowns' where he struggles to deal with the ideas she is introducing - usually abstract concepts such as love or reminders of unpleasant times ("have you ever been teased?"). Initially she is unaware of the inner torment her friend experiences after reading some of her letters but as Mary grows up, both she, and we the viewer gain a better understanding of Max.

I've been a massive fan of stop-motion ever since I was a kid, after watching the early Aardman legend Morph I wanted to be an animator - that never happened but I still love the magical art of incrementally moving a still figure to produce a moving image full of personality. Here Adam Elliot creates two characters full of depth and through them we get to explore the life of an alienated girl who is slowly maturing and also get insights into the issues faced by a man with Asperger Syndrome. We get an idea of the prejudices both are faced with, particularly Max who many would simply dismiss as an oddball or a weirdo - he isn't either of those things, he simply computes information in a different way and his perception of the world isn't something to mock or look down on. Being able to hear his thoughts is a privilege rather than a curiosity, and instead of thinking about him as a peculiar man with mental health issues we get to see him simply as a man, an interesting man with a brilliant mind capable of so much when given the chance. Max's Asperger Syndrome becomes a major element to the story, we come to appreciate that those with Aspergers are more than a condition, and great offence can be taken when it's suggested that they are somehow defective and require a cure - to do so is to almost deny them. The greatest cure would be one which applies to the attitudes of many who are too quick to dismiss behaviours they don't understand.

The story is completely compelling and is presented in a wonderfully gritty way. Desaturated colours and colour accented black & white create a moody atmosphere through which the friendship between Mary and Max can shine. Levels of detail and a clean transfer show how much effort has gone into the models and sets used. The whole story is narrated by Barry Humphries who captures the spirit of the whole relationship brilliantly with his delivery. There's lots of humour in the film and although it is often quite grim there's always a heartwarming smile on its way. It may be an odd tale with outlandish goings on but it always seems grounded in reality, and that's because the characters feel so genuine.

The DVD also includes Adam Elliot's much acclaimed short 'Harvie Krumpet', if you don't already own it then you're getting two for the price of one with this release!

In a nutshell: A fantastic account of an unlikely friendship which manages to make two animated characters feel more real than those in your average Hollywood movie. Australian cinema is great at creating films which mirror many of the insecurities we can all identify with, and this is no exception. Often funny, sometimes heartbreaking, but always engrossing.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 1 June 2011
This self development review is on 'Mary and Max' - a 2009 film, written and directed by Academy Award-winning Australian director Adam Elliot. What is so unusual is that it is a clayography film, with all 200 sets, 212 puppets and 2,000 props being handmade from clay polymers, clays, plastics and metals.


The actual story is about two lonely characters - Mary and Max. The characters are beautifully crafted, both physically and metaphorically. Mary is eight years old and lives in Australia. She has no friends, her mother is an alcoholic and a kleptomaniac, and her father is never there for her. The story begins with her wondering where babies come from in other countries as she has been told that, in Australia, they are found in the bottom of beer glasses.

To find out once and for all, she decides to ask someone in the USA by picking their name and address randomly from an American phone book. The lucky chap is Max who turns out to be Russian-Jewish with Asperger syndrome, in his 40s, depressed, neurotic, over-weight and is not able to handle everyday life and society in general.

They start to write to each other and exchange letters, postcards and packages over two decades - from the 1970s to the 1990s. The two lonely souls find `true friendship' in each other.


It is a very moving film and you will experience many different emotions. Even though the characters are simply clay, you really feel for them. They make you laugh, cry and above all, think!

A huge number of subjects is covered including - in alphabetical order - agoraphobia, alcoholism, anxiety, Asperger syndrome, autism, being overweight, bullying, confidence, depression, friendship, kleptomania, loneliness, mental health, neglect, personal misfortune, phobias, poverty, relationships, self confidence, self esteem, suicide, tragedy and true friendship.

Many of these are pretty heavy subjects but they are treated with great empathy and sensitivity. In the past I have worked with children and adults with autism, Asperger syndrome, etc., and feel that the austistic traits were portrayed very intelligently.


My particular interest in this film was from a self development point of view. This is the story of two people, from completely different points on the globe, who are brought together in time. This connection allows them to self develop in a way that they could never have done without the other. The film is about two people trying to figure out who they really are, what life is really about and learning about their own self development through each other over a 20 year period.


This is a film you actually need to watch twice in order to see all the bits you missed the first time round. So much happens in the background and with all the other creations in the numerous sets. There is also a lot of fascinating information related to the film such as "12 litres of water-based sex lube being used to create everything from tears to a surging jungle river." The detail of the clay animation or claymation is quite incredible, with the 92-minute film taking nearly five years to make with six people producing just four seconds of film a day!


The film keeps you in suspense throughout. The story grips you. Throughout, you wonder what on earth could happen next. As just a tiny example, to find a 'cure' for Max's problems Mary decides to study psychiatry, doing a PhD thesis on Asperger syndrome. The story then takes a totally expected turn. Like most of the film, just when you think you know where things are heading they go in a completely different direction.

Be warned that this is not really a children's film. Overall, it has a rather dark storyline with a fair amount of morbid or black humour. It is not a film to make you warm and happy inside. The content and themes can be disturbing, even for adults!


I highly recommend this film, especially from a self development point of view, but it is not for the faint-hearted. I would certainly watch this film again as there is much you miss the first time round.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 29 March 2010
I loved this lovely little animation film from Australia, Barry Humphries narrates this (apparently true story)sad/funny tale of 2 pen pals(obese man in NY and 8year old girl in Oz} whom each have their own problems in life.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 17 July 2010
This is an absolutely charming and extraordinarily touching little film. It is beautifully animated and compelling from beginning to end. I defy anyone not to love it and want to show it to their friends.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 24 January 2011
This movie is one of the best films I have ever seen not only it is a true story but they chose do it in animation which brought the story to life.Half way through the film you forget theses are made from plaster scene,you would be mad not to buy this.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 14 November 2013
A homely, friendless Australian girl picks a name out of a phone book and writes to him, and sends a chocolate bar.

She's Mary, the only child of an alcoholic mother and a distracted father. He's Max, living alone in New York, overweight, subject to anxiety attacks.

He writes back, with chocolate. Thus begins a 20-year correspondence, interrupted by a stay in an asylum and a few misunderstandings.

Mary falls in love, saves money to have a birthmark removed and deals with loss.

Max has a friendship, and tries to control his weight....

This is an oddity of a film. At first glance, I didn't think I was going to enjoy it. The animation is thoroughly depressive throughout, and Humphries narration grates a little.

But as the film progresses, you find yourself falling in love with the titular characters, and really hope that they meet come the end.

You feel Marys desperation when she upsets the Aspergers suffering Max, and hop all seems lost, when he sends her the typewriter letter.

Believe me, come the end of the film, you will be crying like a baby, because its probably the saddest ending to a film I have seen in a very long time.

So all in all, it's a wonderfully written film, which starts off a little slow, but all of a sudden, you really get lost into the two characters.
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