Ewan Gleadow

Review: Mary and Max 10th Anniversary

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Friendship is a valuable thing, apparently, and I feel that’s the driving message of Mary and Max, a beautifully animated film with an even better tone. Animation is a superb way to invite an audience into a larger than life world, but with Mary and Max quite the opposite occurs and it’s what makes it so excellently unique. Containing itself within only a handful of locations and a shortlist of characters, it’s a unique animated experience that now celebrates its 10th anniversary. 

Starring Toni Collette and personal favourite of mine, the late and great Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Mary and Max follows the titular characters that become pen pals by a stroke of luck. As you probably guessed Hoffman is incredible in his role as the obese, lonely and panicked Max. It’s probably one of his best performances, with his voice role being as monotonous and fitting as you’d expect. Collette appears much later on in the movie as the grown-up Mary and performs at a similar level to Hoffman. 

Part of the charm of the movie is the distance between the two main characters. To have such chemistry between the two and never have them together on screen until the final moments is a tremendous feat, an incredible endurance test that will either drive an audience away or hook them to see the pay-off.  

What surprises and appeases me most is just how depressing a portion of this movie is. For a movie that’s rated family friendly, its tones and discussion of suicide, mental health and family strains is tremendously in-depth and satisfyingly uncomfortable, a tone that suits the movie extremely well. With this tone comes an incredible animation style, one that is both playful and slick; blending stop-motion with tropes typical of claymation and hand-drawn animation is a difficult task to accomplish but Mary and Max looks and feels wonderful. 

Maybe it’s all the unique merits of the movie that pull together to make this so truly incredible. Via narration from Barry Humphries, everything is pooled together in stunning fashion: it’s a rare treat to see narration work in a movie, but Humphries’ involvement is a superb addition to the movie and holds together what could’ve been a disaster of a plot. 

That’s the charm of Mary and Max though, its ability to take risks rather consistently and confidently too. With a strong leading trio (if we include narration) and performances that link so eerily well with the characters on screen, Mary and Max is a superbly unique animation. It blows so many other animated films completely out of the water, all because it isn’t afraid to go all in with its characters and their twisted lives.