Sundance Review: Mary And Max

[flv: 300 224]Note: I've included a video review of the film above for anyone inclined to watch. It features the usual crew of guests: Alex from FirstShowing, Scott from WeAreMovieGeeks, and Neil from FilmSchoolRejects.

I'll admit it. I wasn't really looking forward to the 2009 Sundance Film Festival opening night film Mary and Max. Rarely do I become involved in many animated features produced outside of the Pixar campus, and claymation has never really been my thing. But Mary and Max was something magical. It is the perfect film to start off the festival, because it is everything that Sundance would like to stand for. It's handcrafted and so very unique that it would have been impossible for any studio and Hollywood to produce anything like it. They wouldn't have the guts.

Adam Elliot's film tells the story of a young Australian girl named Mary who begins a pen pal relationship with 44-year old overweight anxiety-ridden New York City resident named Max. But the film is much more than that. It's an endearing story about two friendless outsiders who find themselves unable to connect with anyone in their vastly different worlds, but are somehow able to form the most innocent of friendships from thousands of miles away. The film deals with heavy issues like suicide, alcoholism, death, sex, and mental health.

It may be an animated movie but it's certainly not suitable for children. The film has the dark humor you might expect from a biting R-rated indie dramedy, and the movie reaches levels of cleverness that most British comedies can only aspire to reach. Philip Seymour Hoffman delivers one of the best voice performances of recent years. I have enjoyed stop-animated movies in the past, but for the most part I have found them to be entertaining to watch, but not too involving. Mary and Max will not only make you care about characters transformed out of clay, but you will be transported into a wacky world of imperfection that feels as real as the best live-action features.

Mary and Max is the type of movie that you will see and recommend to at least 10 of your friends. You will not only be amazed that such a film could be created, but you will admire the heart and years of work that were clearly put into each frame. And none of it goes unnoticed.

/Film Rating: 8.5 / 10