сряда, 1 декември 2010 г.

It's All in the Little Things in "Mary and Max"

When a friend recommended Mary and Max to me and I saw the poster of the film - an obese, old man in black and white writing on a typewriter - the superficial part of me said "I don't want to watch a movie about ugly people! And it doesn't look like there's romance ANYWHERE in this one! I mean, that's the only way an animation for kids could be any kind of fun, right?". Yes, I am ashamed to admit that I can be a little judgmental and shallow when it comes to animated films. Add to that my overall distaste of claymation and you can pretty much already guess that I wasn’t thrilled about seeing this movie.

But I am so very glad I did.

But before I start explaining to you why, I should warn you: DON'T take your kids to see it! I mean, not until they're at least 12 or something. Don't get me wrong, I consider myself a very liberal person and I would have no qualms in letting my children watch a little bit of risqué material (and believe you me, the movie has quite a lot of that, as well) from time to time but this is NOT a movie for a child. It's simply too depressing for their innocent minds.

"Depressing, you say? Don't try to fool me, you clever evil female", I imagine you saying, "I saw the trailer, you can't convince me that with all that cheerful music and funny dialogue Mary and Max will make my kids sad!". Oh, I'm not saying that, my friends. I'm simply warning you that after watching it, YOU will be sad - no, you will be crying. In the shower. While eating chocolate.

Okay, maybe that's a little too harsh. But that's what happens when you're caught off-guard. Your emotions' powers double simply because you didn't see them coming. I saw the first 10 minutes of the film and I thought "Okay, this little 8-year-old girl writes to this 44-year-old man and they become friends thus discovering they're not alone in the world and that friendship keeps you going through life or some other crap like that.".

Boy, was I in for a treat.

Because party, yes, it is about that. But only kind of on the surface. Beneath that lie other issues like loneliness and heartache, but also hope and optimism. Because even though it's clear that these two lead incredibly sad and bleak lives, they never feel sorry for themselves, they just kind of go with the flow and make with what they can. Max, for example, struggles with Asperger's syndrome which makes it difficult for him to lead a normal life. Mary, on the other hand, lives in a loveless family with her alcoholic mother and inattentive father, which is why she quite well understands the feeling of isolation from the world that has taken a hold on Max's life.

Even though the letters the two characters constantly exchange are quite simple and straightforward, without much emotional confessions (with some exceptions, of course), they are the most important thing in these people's lives because they're the personal connection they’ve always longed for. Not only that, the stories they tell seem personal to us, too, and thus feel more real and emotionally engaging. We care because we can clearly see that these characters care. And they don't have to sing about their feelings or deliver long speeches about their dreams to make us do that. That's the genius of the movie and that's what most films (especially children's films) tend to lack - a little bit of subtlety. It is through the little things about these people's lives that we find out who they are. Much like in real life, the small aspects of their everyday routines tell us more about them as personalities and that makes us relate to them as we would to real people.

The movie has many funny moments, though, and did make me lol a couple of times. The humor was also quite diverse, ranging from black to ironic to childish. Not once did the producers use the ultimate cop-out that are pop-culture references - they much preferred to keep it simple and clean, relying only on good writing and wit.

I am utterly amazed that this movie exists. I don't know why the studio didn't demand a major re-write of the material so that it could appeal to a wider audience but I am delighted that it didn't. Because we need experiences like that. We need a film that challenges us emotionally. We need a film that's a little dark so that we could better appreciate the happy parts. And yes, I told you not to show it to a 6-year-old, but a slightly older child could handle it just fine and would probably even enjoy the hell out of it. Nowadays kid's movies tend to talk down to their audience, spelling out the morals of the story for them and giving them happy endings. This film takes another direction - it goes down a gloomier road, but one that eventually leads to a better understanding of the world and the people who inhabit it. And although I would wait a while before showing it to my kids, I would never deprive them of this amazing and unforgettable experience.