Wednesday 1 February 2012

Mary and Max - World Animation review (Australia)

Mary and Max - 2010
Director - Adam Elliot

1) Mary and Max Poster

Plot summary / review:
Australian director Adam Elliot follows up his Oscar winning short animation "Harvie Krumpet" (2004) with his first claymation feature film, "Mary and Max". Elliot's unique visual style rivals Nick Park of Aardman Animation and combines it with a dark narrative and black humour Tim Burton would be proud of. Alex Zane of The Sun newspaper notes, "while most animated movies are aimed at kids, this one deals with themes ranging from death and bullying to mental illness." (Zane. 2010). This bleak summary should not put off viewers as Zane goes on to say "this is one of the most life-affirming, feel-good movies of the year." (Zane. 2010).

In the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia; eight year old Mary Daisy Dinkle is an outcast with an active imagination. With a birthmark on her forehead "the colour of poo", her only friends are replica figurines she has made of her favourite cartoon characters "The Noblets". Her father works in a factory (connecting the strings to tea bags), a recluse who confines himself to his shed to work on his hobby, taxidermy. Her mother is a house wife of sorts, interested only in baking cakes (badly), smoking, listening to the cricket results and constantly "testing" sherry.

2. Mary Daisy Dinkle

One day Mary accompany's her mother to the local post office and spots a telephone directory for New York. Fascinated with the funny sounding names, she randomly picks one and decides to send off a letter. The recipient is middle-aged, obese introvert Max Jerry Horowitz. The pair form an unlikely bond and correspond with each other over the next 20 years, discussing practically every topic that comes to mind. In that time, Mary grows into a young woman, attends university, falls in love and gradually connects with society. Similarly, Max comes out of his shell even after he is diagnosed with "Asperger syndrome". Their friendship blossoms but isn't always necessarily plain sailing. At one point Mary's over enthusiastic nature pushes Max's trust issues to the limit.

3. Max

Elliot has expertly realised the worlds his characters inhabit. He has clearly thought out every frame of every scene and demonstrates an excellent understanding of shot framing. Similarly, he has given careful thought to the visual style, using a muted colour palette to reflect Mary and Max's unhappy existence. Mary's Melbourne is a dull range of sepia reminiscent of her birthmark, whilst Max's New York is a stark contrast of black and white. Andrew Pulver of the Guardian newspaper reiterates, stating "All of this is rendered in almost completely monochromatic claymation – only occasional colours stand out, such as the red pompom Mary sends to Max." (Pulver. 2010). This selected splash of colour serves as a beautiful metaphor of Mary and Max's companionship and the joy it brings them.

4) Monochromatic Worlds

Given a 12 certificate in the UK, the simple but brave storyline maybe lost to the younger audience, but there is enough toilet humour to keep them amused. It is also layered with throwaway gags the mature viewer will understand confirming Elliot as "a talent eccentric enough to make Nick Park look like an office drone, and the serious sadness underpinning his vision only makes the humour work better." (Robey. 2010). His detailed environments will throw up new surprises with each viewing and his subtle casting brilliantly compliments the characters they voice. This includes Toni Collette as the older Mary; Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Max; Barry Humphries (AKA Dame Edna) as the narrator and Mary's mother and Eric Bana as Mary's love interest Damian.

Andrew Pulver of the Guardian neatly summarises "Mary and Max", describing it as "a very odd, very unlikely animated film from Australia that manages to be sickly-cute, alarmingly grotesque, and right-on at the same time – often in the very same scene." (Pulver. 2010). It may not be to everyone's taste, however it has cult classic written all over it. 


Pulver, Andrew. The Guardian review 21st October 2010 Accessed 01/02/12

Robey, Tim. Daily Telegraph review 21st October 2010 Accessed 01/02/12

Zane, Alex. The Sun review 22nd October 2010 Accessed 01/02/12


1. Mary and Max Poster Accessed 01/02/12

2. Mary Accessed 01/02/12

3. Max Accessed 01/02/12

4. Monochromatic Worlds Accessed 01/02/12

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