West End Movie Group

Stories of our Lives

© 2011 Linda Tiessen-Wiebe Contact Me

Mary and Max


Sometimes perfect strangers make the best friends.

Spanning 20 years and 2 continents, MARY AND MAX tells of a pen-pal relationship between two very different people: Mary Dinkle (Toni Collette), a chubby, lonely 8-year-old living in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia; and Max Horovitz (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a severely obese, 44-year-old Jewish man with Asperger’s Syndrome living in the chaos of New York City.

As MARY AND MAX chronicles Mary’s trip from adolescence to adulthood, and Max’s passage from middle to old age, it explores a bond that survives much more than the average friendship’s ups-and-downs. Like Elliot and Coombs’ Oscar® winning animated short HARVIE KRUMPET, MARY AND MAX is both hilarious and poignant as it takes us on a journey that explores friendship, autism, taxidermy, psychiatry, alcoholism, where babies come from, obesity, kleptomania, sexual differences, trust, copulating dogs, religious differences, agoraphobia and many more of life’s surprises.

See Mary and Max website

Watch Mary and Max trailer


Read review by Jeff Giles

Questions For Discussion

  1. Draw or briefly write a quick response to what 'Mary and Max' means to you.
  2. Why do you think the animators chose sepia tones for Mary's Australian world, and black and white for Max's New York?
  3. Is this a movie you show kids? Why (not)?
  4. How does the claymation medium help develop the story?
  5. Why do you think Mary and Max became friends? What kept them friends?
  6. What broke through to Max, when he saw the street person outside his apartment, that made him forgive Mary?
  7. Why is authentic friendship often painful? (Or why did Max ultimately prefer Mary to Mr. Ravioli?)
  8. For all its quirky, sardonic humor, the movie deals with disturbing themes, among them: loneliness, addiction, and mental illness. What lessons does it offer?
  9. Mental illness is a taboo in our society. How does the director Adam Elliott deal with it? Does he succeed?
  10. Why are we so uncomfortable around people who are labelled mentally ill?
  11. Is this story a comedy or a tragedy? Why?
  12. Are there biblical stories or texts that the movie reminds you of? Why?
  13. What is your experience of long distance friendship? Is today's Facebook helpful or an obstacle to authentic relationship?
  14. How is life like a sidewalk? What did Dr. Bernard Hazelhof mean by that metaphor? How do you think Max understood it?
  15. Is it possible to have a friendship with God?

Max’s Letter to Mary
I forgive you. The reason I forgive you is because you are not perfect. You are imperfect, and so am l. All humans are imperfect, even the man outside my apartment who litters. When I was young, I wanted to be anybody but myself.Dr Bernard Hazelhof said if I was on a desert island then I would have to get used to my own company just me and the coconuts. 
He said I would have to accept myself, my warts and all, and that we don't get to choose our warts. They are a part of us and we have to live with them. We can, however, choose our friends and I am glad I have chosen you. Dr Bernard Hazelof also said that everyone's lives are like a very long sidewalk. Some are well paved. Others, like mine, have cracks, banana skins and cigarette butts. Your sidewalk is like mine but probably not as many cracks. 
Hopefully, one day our sidewalks will meet and we can share a can of condensed milk.
You are my best friend.
You are my only friend.
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