Adam Elliot’s claymation labour of love is as heartfelt and sadsack-funny as his 2003 Oscar-winning short ‘Harvie Krumpet’ (which you’ll find on YouTube). Philip Seymour Hoffman provides the voice of Max, a lumpen 44-year-old New Yorker with Asperger’s who embarks on a penfriendship with Mary, a lonely eight-year-old Australian girl. The pair’s letters over 20 years are full of bonkers and poignant non-sequiturs: ‘Have you ever been attacked by a crow or similar large bird?’ asks Max. ‘Mum says I’m growing up to be a heifer. Which I think is some kind of cow,’ writes Mary. Barry Humphries lends an expertly arch narration.
There is plenty of gross stuff that kids will love: Max collects his toenail clippings in jars labelled by year. But the 12A certificate is about right, taking into account rutting dogs, death by accidental embalming and electric-shock therapy. Mary’s questions become increasingly curious (‘Have you got some wives? Have you done sexy?’), triggering an anxiety attack that lands Max in a psychiatric unit. And while perhaps it doesn’t fully sustain its 90-odd-minute running time, ‘Mary and Max’ is a moving celebration of oddness and friendship.