Mary & Max Adam Elliott

Mary & Max Adam Elliott
It's a shame that one of the better films to open in 2009 — even within a sea of superior animated fare — would find such a limited audience. Mary & Max is a curious one for sure, appealing mainly to adult audiences with an interest in the often-painful task of being a self-aware human, despite having a G-rating and Claymation presentation. But it works as a touching and powerful testament to the significance of unlikely connections and incidental compassion in a world that often doesn't care and shows little patience for anything different. Eight-year-old Mary (voiced by Toni Collette and Bethany Whitmore) lives in Australia with her working, absent father and alcoholic mother, making childhood toys out of garbage and chicken bones, dreaming of having a friend while talking to her pet chicken. Wanting to know if babies actually come from the bottom of beer glasses, Mary picks a name at random from a New York phone book and writes a letter. The name chosen is Max Horovitz (Philip Seymour Hoffman), an obese social reject with Asperger's Syndrome. Despite feeling anxiety at the prospect of anything new, Max writes back to the little girl, in turn earning an unlikely lifelong friend. In addition to the surprising perception surrounding the social need to "fix" diversity through assimilation, equal doses of inspired comedy and genuine pathos keep this story of human connection engrossing and vibrant throughout. Max tells Mary that her regularly mocked, poo-coloured birthmark means only that she will manage all of the chocolate in heaven, giving her the reassurance and confidence to stand up to schoolyard bullies, making us laugh and feel like a part of her empowerment. These moments of joy and an unflinching honesty about insecurity and fledgling sincerity make Mary & Max a more humanizing film than most that feature actual actors. More people should take some time and give this one a chance. No supplements are included with the DVD, sadly. (Mongrel Media)