In 1976 Mary Daisy Dinkle, a lonely eight-year-old girl living in suburban Australia decides to write to someone in America to find out what that country is like. So she writes a letter to a random address, pulled from the phone book, and includes a bar of chocolate as a token of friendship. That letter is delivered to Max Jerry Horowitz, a 44-year-old overweight New Yorker who suffers from social anxiety and finds the modern world a confusing place.
Max replies, answering Mary’s questions as best he can and telling her something of her own life. And so begins a 20 year friendship.
I didn’t see Mary and Max when it was released in 2009 which is unfortunate because this is the best film I have seen this year and the most moving film I have seen in a long time.
The story is told through the letters exchanged by Mary and Max and narrated throughout Barry Humphries and moves at a misleadingly gentle pace. It often feels as if not much is happening but this pacing allows the characters to fully develop into people that really do elicit empathy. Furthermore, the pacing and the depth of characterisation allows the film to really delve into a wide range of issues without ever feeling preachy.
Visually, it’s stunning, with the occasional flash of colour standing out against the washed out or black and white backgrounds, adding subtle emphasis and real depth to the events.
And then there’s the soundtrack, which I particularly noticed because it starts with the Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s Perpetuum Mobile. This is the Penguin Cafe Orchestra qt their most Phillip Glass and it took me a moment to place it, which left me paying more attention than I usually would as to just how superbly the music choices set the tone of the film throughout.
Mary and Max is sad, happy, funny, moving and utterly brilliant.