Adam Elliot, Director. Mary and Max. 1900.
We are all imperfect, Max and Mary remind us. Together, Mary and Max–he, with his obesity, loneliness, and Asperger’s syndrome, and she with her dysfunctional family, self-imposed seclusion, and facial birthmark—connect with, reject, and reconnect with each other as they both learn to love themselves and forgive each other’s imperfections. Big questions concerning eschatology, love and sex, friendship, loyalty, and sanity pervade each of their lives. Max battles violent and self-destructive reactions to everyday situations that confuse and torment him. The movie suggests that for the most part, he is more logical, ethical, and common sensical than the “normal” people who infuriate him. Mary battles self-isolating and self-deprecating reactions to her own everyday situations of abuse and bullying. For the most part, she is the grown up amidst juvenile colleagues and immature parents. The movie comically and painfully invites us to rethink normalcy. As pen pals through the ages and stages of her coming of age, Max and Mary both become more uniquely who they always were and learn to let go of fixing their personalities and modifying their behavior. As the film approaches it end, Max approaches the realization that he will never become a people-person; but he can, instead, cherish Mary as his one best friend. Mary finally realizes that she will never become Earl Grey’s Cinderella; but she can, instead, become someone’s prized friend. They are both flawed—as are all humans—but not more flawed than all humans are. Accepting their flaws and more importantly, responsibility for their flaws, they accept themselves and each other. Watch the movie because it seriously approaches healthy individualism (a concept sorely lacking in the U.S.), hardship, misery, and hope. Watch it because it’s very, very funny, as well. Although the ending is bittersweet, it is endearing and realistic. I hope that you enjoy this thoughtful take on self-actualizing without acculturating.