Mary and Max is the highlight of my 2009 film-going so far. This claymation debut feature film, written, directed and built by Adam Elliot (of Harvey Krumpet), is an endearing and touching story about two social outcasts and unlikely penpals. Mary is a funny-looking, bespectacled kid from Mount Waverley, who has no-hoper parents, no friends but does have a keen curiosity about the world. Max is an middle-aged, overweight, chocolate-hot-dog eating loner from Noo Yawk, who has difficulty connecting with the world and who often finds himself ‘confuzzled’ by the behaviour of others due to him having Asperger’s syndrome. Through the years they keep up a sometimes witty, sometimes sad and always honest correspondence, enclosing some chocolate each time as a sign of continued friendship.
As the two friends travel through the ups and downs of their lives – love, death, marriage, public accolades, depression, divorce, alcholism and even a lottery win – they know this truth to be self-evident; that all people want to feel connected to other people, and that friendship and love are things which should be valued and respected above everything else.
In addition to the wonderful story, the film is clearly a labour of love for Elliot. Claymation is a notoriously time-consuming and finicky form of animation, and his eye for detail is apparent everywhere – from the Collingwood jersey worn by the school bully, to the gravestone at the cemetry saying ‘RIP Adam Elliot’. He has imbued the drudgery of suburbia, the loneliness of a metropolis and his dung-coloured clay characters with such love and human spirit that the very fitting ending had me tearing up.