Mary and Max (12A)

Voices: Toni Collette, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Barry Humphries

Reviewed,John Walsh
Friday 22 October 2010 00:00

Amid much childish dross this week, Adam Elliot's "clayography" stands out as a genuine work of art, where Wallace and Gromit meet Dostoevsky and Diane Arbus, the photographer of human grotesques.

Mary is eight, plain, freckly, lonesome and lives in an Australian suburb. Her world is brown: she has a poo-coloured birthmark and a passion for chocolate. Her father stuffs birds, her lipsticked, kleptomaniacal mother swills cooking sherry. Max is a morbidly obese 44-year-old Jewish New Yorker with Aspergers syndrome, an invisible friend called Mr Ravioli, a blind neighbour called Ivy and a passion for chocolate hot-dogs. His world is black and grey with flashes of red. As the child and the middle-aged casualty correspond, her innocent questions about bullying and sex spark terrible reactions in him, and their worlds threaten to converge. It's a 20-year story that absorbs and beguiles, despite the ugly subject matter. The climax, involving a suicide bid and Doris Day singing "Que Sera Sera," is astonishingly moving.

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