Monday Mental Movie Night: Mary & Max

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“[Mary & Max] deals with themes including childhood neglect, friendship, the obscurity of life, teasing, loneliness, autism (Asperger syndrome in particular), obesity, depression and anxiety.” — Wikipedia


A very odd, very unlikely animated film from Australia that manages to be sickly-cute, alarmingly grotesque, and right-on at the same time – often in the very same scene.
‘Mary & Max’ review; October 2010, The Guardian


I love movies. Specifically, I love really good movies. In fact, five years ago, I wrote five huge posts all about my favourite movies.

It’s something I should update, because I have seen some spectacular movies since then. Including one intimate, claymation movie called ‘Mary & Max’.

I tend to stay away from movies that market themselves as being about “mental illness”, because Hollywood generally takes mental illness far too seriously.

That might sound odd, but when you make a piece of art about the disease, it generally comes out entirely wrong because everyone’s reaction and recovery from disease is unique. The disease itself is generally uninteresting as art, it’s how we react to the diagnosis and how we fight against it that I find interesting.

A movie like ‘Prozac Nation’ for example, spends the entire ninety minutes explaining to us how bad off Christina Ricci is… here’s Christina fighting with her mother; here’s Christina behaving badly at school; here’s Christina losing another friend; hey look, here’s a totally gratuitous five minute long camera pan over Christina’s breasts.

It’s been forever plus a day since I saw ‘Prozac’, but I had been so excited to see it because, to be honest, back then there were very few movies available for people with a mental illness to connect with.

…it’s like, back in the day, teh gayz had to adopt non-gay characters in movies, because there were so very few overtly gay characters. Prozac Nation tries to depict someone who is depressed, not someone with manic depression, but I was willing to watch for my behaviours in the main character, and desperately wanted to see some solutions.


From Variety Magazine: “…[Prozac Nation] can’t really get inside her character’s head to meaningfully explore the condition upon which it lavishes so much attention, a malaise about which the filmmakers are far more fascinated than they are ever able to persuade the viewer to be.”


And I saw very little of myself in the movie. But again, I did get to see Christina’s boobs. So I guess that was cool.

‘Michael Clayton’, on the other hand, was fantastic. The secondary character, someone with manic depression who stopped taking their lithium, was played perfectly by Tom Wilkinson. I was more interested in Tom’s character than I was in George Clooney, although George played the exasperated friend perfectly in his scenes with Tom.

So… I found this weird little Australian claymation movie a few months ago, called ‘Mary & Max’ — it’s about a young Australian girl being raised by an absentee father and an alcoholic, abusive mother, and; her accidental pen pal — a much older, autistic, overweight, chronically depressed, anxiety ridden, chocoholic, New Yorker shut in.

And it’s brilliant… like a mirror.

Unlike most movies with mental illness as a theme, the main characters in ‘Mary & Max’ are easy for me to identify with because their behaviours (at least some of them) and the lives they lead (at least some parts of them) remind me of the things I’ve had to work through, and how difficult it all was.

This movie managed to show me pieces of my childhood through some of the experiences of Mary, and some of the long term results of those experiences through Max.

It’s narrated by Barry Humphries, the comedian who plays Dame Edna Everage, and stars the voices of Philip Seymour Hoffman, Toni Collette, Eric Bana and Bethany Whitmore. It’s written and directed by Adam Elliot and produced by Melanie Coombs.

Mary & Max won the Grand Prize for Best Animated Feature at the 2009 Ottawa International Animation Festival… which is kind of a really big deal.

…with all of the success of ‘Mary & Max’, I assume there’s a prequel in the works. Maybe something along the lines of ‘Max & Mr. Ravioli’ …which, once you see ‘Mary & Max’, you’ll know why a) the idea on its own is funny, and; b) why that’d be really, really fun to see.


3 Quotes from Mary & Max

1. Max: “When I was young, I invented an invisible friend called Mr Ravioli. My psychiatrist says I don’t need him anymore, so he just sits in the corner and reads.”

2. Narrator: Max hoped Mary would write again. He’d always wanted a friend. A friend that wasn’t invisible, a pet or rubber figurine.

3. Max: “I was born Jewish and used to believe in God but I’ve since read many books that have proven God is just a figment of my imagination. People like to believe in God ’cause it answers difficult questions, like where did the universe came from, do worms go to heaven and why do old ladies have blue hair. And even though I’m an atheist, I still wear my yarmulke as it keeps my brain warm.”

Rotten Tomatoes Rank: 94%


[YouTube Alert] Watch The Official Trailer Here:


Mary & Max Links:

1. Writer and director Adam Elliot and producer Melanie Coombs.
2. Melodrama Pictures
3. Legit ‘Mary & Max’ downloads: Netflix; Amazon; iTunes
4. Adam Elliot’s YouTube account
5. Adam Elliott and Melanie Coombs discuss Mary & Max at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival
6. The Official Mary & Max site
7. Toronto Star (Canada’s largest circulation daily newspaper) review.


My [original] Favourite Twenty-Five Movies
(because ten would be stupid and thirty would be fucking annoying) [posts]

The First Five: Bladerunner (Directors Cut) (1992) (Daryl Hannah, Rutger Hauer); Tora, Tora, Tora (1970); All The Presidents Men (1974) (Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman); Our Lady of The Assassins (2002); Se7en (1995) (Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt).

The Second Five: The Americanization of Emily (1964) b/w (James Garner, Julie Andrews); Giant (1956) (Rock Hudson, James Dean, Liz Taylor); The Prophecy (1995) (Christopher Walkin, Eric Stoltz); The Filth And The Fury (2002) (Sex Pistols — doc.); Network (1976) (Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway, Robert Duvall)

The Third Five: Pi (π) (1998) b/w (Sean Gullette, Mark Margolis); Apocalypse Now (Redux) (1979) (Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall); The Killing Fields (1984) (Sam Waterston, Haing S. Ngor, Spalding Gray); Cool Hand Luke (1967) (Paul Newman, George Kennedy); Lawrence of Arabia (1962) (Peter O’Toole, Omar Sharif).

The Fourth Five: Run Lola Run (1998) (Franka Potente, Moritz Bleibtreu); Three Days of The Condor (1975) (Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway); City Of Ghosts (2002) (Matt Dillon, James Cahn); Touching The Void (2003) (Joe Simpson, Simon Yates); The Third Man (1949) b/w (Orson Welles, Joseph Cotton).

The Fifth Five: Once Were Warriors (1994) (Rena Owen, Temuera Morrison); The Great Dictator (1940) (Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard); The Devil’s Rejects (2005) (Bill Moseley, Sheri Moon); The Thing (1982) (Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley); Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) (Yun-Fat Chow, Michelle Yeoh).

…check the posts out, there are actual movie conversations on each one. Or we can start one here…




About Gabriel...

...diagnosed with manic depression when I was nineteen, for the next 14-years I lived without treatment or a recovery plan. I've been homeless, one time I graduated college, I've won awards for reporting on Internet privacy issues, and a weekly humour column. In 2002 I finally hit bottom and found help. It's now 2022, and I have an 8-year old son, and a 12-year old son... I’m usually about six feet tall, and I'm pretty sure I screwed up my book deal. I mostly blog at
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8 Responses to Monday Mental Movie Night: Mary & Max

  1. PiedType says:

    God explains why “old ladies have blue hair?” Sounds like something only a man would write, and a clueless one at that.

    • Gabriel... says:

      Watch the film, Max is a very sympathetic, worn down sardonic curmudgeon… I believe the “blue hair” comment was made as a question a child would ask. Kind of like “do worms go to heaven?’.

      • PiedType says:

        LOL, yes, it sounds like a child’s question. I have no intention of forcing my grandkids to ask, “Why does grandma have blue hair?” Bless kids for their guilelessness and frankness. I do need to get to the dentist, though. My granddaughter has asked me why my teeth are “gold” (yellow). Ugh.

  2. Heather says:

    I LOVE this movie!! Thank you for sharing!

    • Gabriel... says:

      Heather, you have fantastic taste and have proven yourself to be a true connoisseur of movies and culture. Thanks for taking the time to watch… for myself, this movie has a weird way of showing me pieces of my childhood through some of the experiences of Mary, and some of the results of those experiences through Max. Fantastic movie.

  3. The book “Bladerunner” was based on – “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Philip K.Dick – is a great novel. Dick has become something of a religous figure via his schizophrenic gnostic hallucinations.
    Time magazine recently had a cover story on Xanax being the new Prozac.
    I gotta check this movie out.

    • Gabriel... says:

      Thanks for the comment BAD (cool acronym), and welcome to my blog… I’m a huge fan of Dick… mostly because of his writing, but 30% because when I talk about him I can say things like “Dick is awesome” or “you should seriously get to the bookstore and grab some Dick”. What kills me is the guy is (probably) the most influential SciFi writer since Asimov, and he died young, at 53, in 1982… most of his work was pre-Star Wars, pre-HAL, almost pre-fire.

      For crying out loud, ‘…Electric Sleep’ was written in 1968. Most of his writing either had a mental illness or drug addiction theme in them somewhere… definitely one of my favourite writers.

  4. Pingback: Tuesday Mental Movie Night: ‘Storm: The Animated Movie’ | …salted lithium.

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