Posted on 9/05/11 02:19 PM
What I loved, really loved, about Mary And Max was its emotional resonance and its wonderful animation style. Mary And Max is--perhaps surprisingly--one of the very BEST animated films I have ever had the privilege of seeing.
Mary And Max stars Barry Humphries, Toni Collette, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the narrator and titular characters in this remarkably poignant film. The voice acting alone is magnificent as the actors do their job well of bringing out the subtle emotions the characters are experiencing. I especially enjoyed the performances by Humphries as the narrator and Bethany Whitmore as the young Mary (Collette played the adult version of the character). The narrator had the most significant role in the film, in a way, because he seemed to be telling the story to the audience as a parent would to a child at bedtime. Whitmore, meanwhile, is an eleven year old actress who was able to play the complex vocal part she was given very expertly. More than once I found myself more than enchanted by this actress's simplicity in her performance. She did not try to play the part in a cutesy manner, but rather played it very much as though she *were* the eight year old Mary. In other words, she did not play the part as though she were giving a performance, but simply as though she were really having all the questions she were asking her pen-pal.
Mary is an eight-year-old Australian girl who is teased at school and wants to grow up and be a beautiful girl and marry the handsome young man next door. By chance, she becomes pen-pals with a lonely, obese man named Max from New York. Over the course of the film, they share their lives with each other. And as their friendship grows more and more complex, the world around them becomes clearer and clearer for them.
The characters in this story both see the world a little differently than everyone else around them, and that's why I admired the clay-style animation in this film as much as I did. Animators have begun a trend to make their films as realistic-looking as possible. I think this is a mistake. It should not be the goal of animation to look realistic. The reason we have animated movies is because there are things that animation can do that real life cannot convey. Sometimes characters see the world around them so differently that it is untruthful to make the world look realistic. The goal of animation should be to give the audience its own interpretation of the world we live in, rather than persistently feeding us our own. And this is what sets Mary And Max apart from other animated films.
And apart from being very stylish, very intelligent, and very character-driven, Mary And Max is simply an emotional ride. I cried during the film. This is not something I do with every film, either. As a matter of fact, I cannot remember the last time I cried like this during a film. There is an emotional payoff with Mary And Max that simply does not happen with many films today--animated or otherwise. The reason this happens is because of clever storytelling and very intelligent character development. I have a lot of respect for the makers of this film and the story that they have told here. This is absolutely one of the very best animated films I have ever seen--and I do not make this claim lightly. I highly recommend Mary And Max.