I saw Adam Elliot’s feature film Mary and Max at Metro Magazine’s 40th Anniversary Party a couple of days ago. Before the film Elliot asked people to come and give him feedback, both positive and negative. He seemed quite genuine about asking for negative criticism because, he said, he would only learn from his mistakes if he knew what they were. Elliot has an endearing presence; he seems very likable. Anyway, I didn’t get a chance to talk to him about the film, which I’d describe as good and occasionally great. On the good side, it’s like nothing I’ve seen before: an adult clay-motion feature. Yes there are laughs, but there’s an underlying darkness to the film that is at times unnerving. It is really a touching film about real and serious issues (Max suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, Mary is a lonely and alienated child – by a kind-of accident they become pen-friends, giving each other advice and sharing a love of chocolate). In other words, it’s worth seeing. On the other hand, at times I found myself restless and the film felt long. The reasons for this are:
1) There are essentially only two characters. I’ve written about this elsewhere, so I’ll limit myself to saying that this restricts the dynamism of any piece (film or fiction), for you have a only a one relationship to work with. For this reason many stories have three main characters, with shifting allegiances between them.
2) Mary and Max spend almost all of the film without ever being in the same scene together. (It’s the story of a pen-friendship.) Now that’s a hard thing for anyone to pull off.
Still, Eliot’s film is really worthy – original, ambitious and obviously a labour of love. Check out the website if it sounds like your kind of thing.