Mary And Max Movie Review

Mary and Max
Image Source: IMDB

So, Mary And Max is an Australian stop-motion movie that was released in 2009. It tells the story of Mary Daisy Dinkle, a young Australian girl without many friends. One day she decides to write to a random pen pal. And the pen pal she finds is a 40-year-old man New Yorker called Max Horowitz. The movie then follows their journey through two decades as it shows the highs and lows of their friendship as well as learning how to accept themselves. How does this film hold up 13 years later? Read on and find out.

Mary And Max

Description Of Mary And Max

I saw this movie when I was younger and I didn’t fully appreciate all themes and ideas that this film was trying to get across but I still enjoyed the characters’ friendship. Now watching it as an older person, I love it even more and appreciate everything that they were going for here.

I believe this is a truly underrated stop motion movie that deserves far more recognition than it’s gotten. The story manages to hit all the good story moments and the emotional beats.  From start to finish this film will make you feel every emotion. Sadness, Anger, Joy. All of it. eventually leading up to a very bitter ending that stays with you long after it’s finished.


Another way in which it deserves more recognition is the representation of Autism. Max has Asperger’s and it’s very important to his character yet the film doesn’t reduce his character to his disability. Max is always shown as being comfortable with himself but he also recognises how it also causes him problems.

For autistic representation in 2009, that is a great achievement. And it even surpasses some modern autistic representations like Sia’s film ‘Music’. My girlfriend who has autism stated that she “felt her soul resonating with it” when she watched it.

Analysis Of Mary & Max

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. These character designs aren’t the most attractive. They’re lumpy and oddly angled and generally off-putting. They were made to look that way on purpose. It’s not like other stop motions films like Coraline or Isle of Dogs where the characters were made to look good. This film’s story is about loving yourself, warts and all, and the character designs reflect that. They knew they’d be sacrificing a wider audience by making this choice but it makes the film very distinct and unique.

Another choice they made that was also unappealing was the use of colour. This film is mainly in brown, black and white. The only splash of colour they have is red when highlighting something important like a pompom with emotional value. These splashes of red really pop out on the screen. They’re going for an artistic look to the film and while I may have my personal issues with it I know in the bigger picture it made sense for the film to choose it.


The movie has three main voice actors. Toni Colette as Mary and Phillip Seymore Hoffman as Max. Toni Colette is brilliant in this. Colette is an Australian herself so it shouldn’t be a surprise that she pulls the role off so well. She gets across the vulnerability that Mary has as an adult so even when Mary does something unlikable it’s hard to dislike her.

Phillip Seymore Hoffman plays Max and despite being able to tell it’s him he still delivers a knockout performance. The inflexions he adds to Max’s voice adds to the fact that he is a character who likes order in his life. He nails the New York accent and even in the emotional moments he still brings it all to the table. The monologue at the end of the movie is a highlight and Hoffman delivers it perfectly.

One last character I have to mention is the Narrator, voiced by Barry Humphries. Oddly enough he becomes a character of his own. The way he narrates the story reminds me of those old cartoon narrations. His performance is subtle but it enriches the story, like the way he narrates things depending on who the focus is on. If it’s focusing on Mary he’ll narrate in a more child-friendly way but with Max, he’s very direct in the way he speaks, much like Max himself.  


The story is a very simple one. It’s just about two people and how their pen pal relationship develops over the years. Despite its simplicity, they manage to get as much out of it with their characters. It’s natural and realistic that these two would get along. It’s their journey and we’re on the ride with them.

This film’s genre is comedy-drama, however, it leans on the drama more than anything else. Don’t get me wrong there are some good funny yet dark, moments however this film shines in being an emotional powerhouse. It mostly begins when Mary grows into a young woman and that’s when the problems begin. Mary’s journey shows her high moments and her rock bottom. It doesn’t shy away from going to some really dark places. Alcoholism, suicide and disability are all major components of this movie that use it to enhance the story and not for any shock value.

As much as this movie makes me cry from sadness, it also makes me cry from amazingly heart-warming moments. For example, Max has trouble showing his emotions, including crying. Mary sends him a bottle of her tears for him to use. Moments like this tell you that the film’s production has heart and passion.


While I struggle to find any major problems with it there are a couple of moments that seem to stall the movie. The parts about Max’s past drag a little bit and sometimes things seem a little coincidental, like Mary’s agoraphobic neighbour showing up in time to save the day. These moments break the immersion and slow the film down.

Summary Of Mary And Max

To conclude I believe Mary and Max is a powerful tale of friendship and learning to love yourself, warts and all. If you don’t watch it based on the design, I believe you’re missing out on a truly incredible film.

Overall Rating: 8/10 – Very Good

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