Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Confuzzlement* Abounds: Reviewing Mary and Max

Scott and I discussed Mary and Max for episode 43 of A Good Story is Hard to Find so I'm rerunning this review for anyone interested. The episode will air tomorrow.

Rose plucked this off the video rental shelf, saying she watched it after it showed up in her Netflix movie recommendation. She described it as being about a penpal friendship developed between a lonely 8-year-old Australian girl and an equally lonely 40-year-old New York man. They correspond for 20 years and we see how their lives are changed.

I would tell you more of the plot but that sums it up well enough. It probably is best categorized as a black comedy. There is plenty of humor, some of it rather subtle, although the movie often surprises with how serious some of the subject matter is and the depth to which the filmmaker is willing to explore it. This is all aided by the fact that Mary and Max are each, in their own way, complete innocents who write exactly what they are thinking, whether it will hurt or confuse the other person or not. This results in confuzzlement* not only for the main characters but also for the viewer at times. At one point I realized I was hanging on for dear life to the idea that the story would take a turn for the better. In fact, just like real life, the movie takes us through the comic and tragic which often are intertwined ... and does it brilliantly.

Although animated, this is not (repeat: NOT) a film for children. It is a stop-motion, claymation depiction of a story intended for adult audiences.

It also is the film that made me realize if the definition of an extrovert is someone who must discuss ideas aloud to understand them, then I am an extrovert. I was really not sure what I thought of this movie until after the entire family's animated discussion which followed for the rest of the evening. That conversation greatly clarified my thoughts, especially as everyone had been struck by different points.

At one point I asked, "Is it a movie to recommend to others?" Tom instantly responded, "It is a move that must be seen by anyone who values a richly told story." He is right. It is a film for those who are interested in stories exploring the heights and depths that imperfection, perception, and sheer humanity bring to our lives and the lives of those we touch (even if simply through letters). In fact, I imagine that at some point I will be watching this again to see more of the details and subtleties I missed the first time around. First though, I must have time to let this sink in more fully. It's that kind of a movie.

*Confuzzlement: confusion + puzzlement. Watch the movie. You'll see where it comes from. It is now a new household term for us.


  1. I "refudiate" confuzzlement!

  2. Is there a car chase or gunfire?

  3. No, although there is death by giant wave if that helps. :-D

  4. Way cool! I'm going for the popcorn...!

  5. Love this movie for many reasons: 1. It's just darn funny and endearing. 2. It treats its primary subject with respect and grace. 3. It is beautifully rendered.

    I won't do the Spoiler because it's already done above. ;-)

  6. What spoiler is that? I tried to include none ...

  7. Julie, this has nothing to do with the movie review . . . but I just wanted to say that I love how you write about your family's discussions. It is a true blessing that while you are obviously good parents, your daughters can also regard you and your husband as their friends. I like hearing about how the four of you enjoy art and movies and food and LIFE together - and more importantly, you enjoy talking earnestly with one another about these things.

    Dare I say that I am deeply envious - not very Christian of me, I know. Well, we can only ask God for so many good things in life. And my parents have suffered much; I love them and I cannot blame them. I just pray that my husband and I can have the best relationship possible with OUR children, Lord willing.

    God bless you.

    1. J, thank you so very much ... what a nice thing to hear! I have to say that we have been incredibly blessed with wonderful kids and a wonderful marriage, but as you know, it also took work on everyone's part.

      Growing up we had some great times with our parents but my father was a very difficult man ... and that lead to things that everyone regretted a lot later and which, naturally, marked my siblings and me. But that is life. None of us is perfect, none of us gets out without making mistakes that affect others, and if we are lucky we can all still love each other at the end of it! :-)