3.5, Southeast Asia

Mary and Max

2009 / Adam Elliot > Elliot got on the radar screen with an Oscar for his oddball, tragic figure of Harvie Krumpet in 2003. Mary and Max, his feature debut, stars a core cast of Toni Collette and Philip Seymour Hoffman, the latter especially nailing his part as a middle-aged man with undiagnosed Asperger’s living in New York in the mid-70s. The former, a pre-teen girl lacking friends and beauty, becomes his penpal from the suburbs of Melbourne. And that’s where normalized expectations take a nosedive. The story has a lot of minor twists and turns, mostly idiosyncratic, running the thin line between quirkdom and absurdity. Had it remained a simpler story that ended in the finality of eventual happiness, it would have wasted its build-up with a sort of banal comedown. But Elliot hits a couple of heartstrings in interpreting his opinion of those who “suffer” from Asperger’s (and subsequently, a lot of other similar perceived ills): Never assume they are worse off than you, and never assume they need your help. Elliot drives this simple message home without insulting the viewer, and for that alone, the man (as well as his film) should be commended.