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'Mary and Max' by Adam Elliot. Literature Unit 4: Home

A tale of friendship between two unlikely pen pals: Mary, a lonely, eight-year-old girl living in the suburbs of Melbourne, and Max, a forty-four-year old, severely obese man living in New York.

A new thing called Aspergers Syndrome


Mary and Max quiz

1) What were Mary’s eyes the colour of?

2) How did Mary get her toys?

3) What does Mary’s father do for a living?

4) What is his hobby?

5) What is the main ingredient that Mary’s mother Vera bakes with?

6) What does Vera do when they go shopping?

7) What does Mary name her pet rooster?

8) How old is Max?

9) What group is Max a member of?

10) What signals does Max have trouble understanding?

11) What happened to Max’s mother?

12) True or false: Max no longer believes in God

13) Why does Max wear a helmet in spring?

14) What things does Max not like?

15) What are some things that Mary and Max have in common?

16) What is Max’s number one goal?

17) What does Mary’s letter trigger in Max?

18) What was Max diagnosed with?

19) What does Mary do to Max’s letters?

20) What does Max’s air conditioning unit do?

21) What happens after Max’s 48th birthday?

22) What does Max do with his money?

23) What does Max tell Mary he has been diagnosed with?

24) Does Max like being an Aspie?

25) What does Mary send Max in a bottle?

26) What does Mary study at university?

28) What is written on the Loveheart sweet that Max sends Mary?

29) How does Vera die?

30) What did Mary do her thesis on at university?

31) Why is Max so angry at Mary’s letter?

32) What does Mary do to her book?

33) What does Damian tell Mary?

34) What does Max give Mary as a sign that he forgives her?

35) Why does Max forgive Mary?

36) What had happened to Max when Mary finally arrives in New York?

37) What does Max have on his walls?


Review by Jim Schembri in The Age

Jim Schembri, reviewer
April 13, 2009


General release (92 minutes)

THERE'S an exquisite moment of operatic pathos in the final act of Mary and Max that is pure pins and needles. It's the type of moment embedded in every Disney classic when everything - technique, story, artistry - combines perfectly to deliver a jaw-dropping instant of pure emotion.

Writer/director Adam Elliot builds so subtly towards his Disney moment that it hits unexpectedly, but, when it does, it's with a wave of empathy and heart-crushing sorrow for the girl at the heart of his tale.

Only long after the film, and with considerable effort, do you have to remind yourself that what you went all weak-kneed and misty-eyed over was a blob of plasticine - a superbly directed blob of plasticine.

With Mary and Max, Elliot does not merely make good on the promise shown in his Oscar-winning 2003 short Harvie Krumpet, he exceeds every conceivable expectation. Mary and Max is an unqualified triumph - a beautiful, witty, deeply emotional film that explores the innate human need to connect.

Using the painstaking, defiantly non-digital animation technique of stop-motion, Elliot immerses us in the suburban world of Mount Waverley circa 1976. The warm centre of his story is Mary Daisy Dinkle (Toni Collette), a bright eight-year-old girl who possesses an engaging and optimistic disposition despite her dull father and alcoholic mother.

Playing on her curious nature, Mary begins a pen-pal friendship with Max (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a lonely, lugubrious, overweight New York shut-in who wears tracky dacks and whose main achievement in life is the invention of the chocolate hot dog.

In a story bursting with rich characters and comic detail, the pair maintains a correspondence over many years, exchanging lengthy accounts of their various travails and often sending each other boxes filled with gifts, mementoes and photographs.

The film is pitted with weighty themes such as loneliness, child neglect, cruelty, sexual naivete, clinical anxiety, betrayal, guilt and the mortality rate of apartment-bound goldfish. Yet to tag Mary and Max as a mordant comedy is to miss the point of the film entirely.

Elliot does relent to the darker emotions but only sparingly and with precise dramatic force and purpose.

Life might be an uphill struggle for these characters, but Elliot refuses to surrender to despondency or bitterness. The story is laced with delicious observational humour that is dry and often sweetly ironic, and the emotional undertow of the film is graced with a subdued sense of celebration.

A caution to parents, though. Mary and Max is an adult film and, much as I adore it, the film's PG rating is arguably too generous.

Mary's gorgeous bulb-shaped face might look like a Peanuts character but this is not a film for very young or sensitive children. It deserved an M.

At a cost of $8million and with the Australian film industry in dire need of connecting with audiences, one does, of course, hope the film promptly finds the public it deserves. But it could prove a tough sell. The film does not fit neatly into any genre and Elliot himself admits he has trouble defining what type of filmMary and Max is.

Regardless, Mary and Max has the unmistakable feel of an animation classic. This is not a film that will date. 


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