From the first frame of “Mary and Max,” it is clear that this isn’t your typical animated film. It bears almost no resemblance to other feature animations, stop-motion or otherwise. From the characters, to the animation, to the coloring, to the construction, everything in “Mary and Max” is totally unique and novel.

 

Written and directed by Adam Elliot, “Mary and Max” follows the two title characters in their quest to make friends and find happiness. Mary, a young, chubby Australian girl, is lonely and mostly sad with parents who could care less about her. Max is an adult living in New York. He has Asperger’s Syndrome and lives simply in the company of his pets.

 

The two become pen pals and end up forming a cross-continental bond.

 

“Mary and Max” is shot in a variety muted blacks, whites, and grays. In stark opposition to most animated films, there is nothing bright or boisterous about the film. The images might not pop like some other films do, but there is a beauty to the coloring and photography that is undeniable.

 

The animation is also satisfying, although the relatively low budget does show at times in the jerky nature of some of the character movement. All in all, though, the team behind “Mary and Max” were able to make this a memorable visual experience.

 

Story-wise, “Mary and Max” is character-driven and presents a poignant portrait of these two characters. Through their correspondence and the omniscient narration, we are given a powerful look into the minds of these sad, struggling human beings. In several ways, “Mary and Max” is more “real” than most of the live-action films that are released today.

 

The voice talent behind “Mary and Max” is solid, with a particularly strong performance from Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Max. As with all of his roles, Hoffman proves that he is truly one of the finest actors of his generation — even with just his voice.

(Related: Top 5 Phillip Seymour Hoffman Movies)

 

Ultimately, Elliot and his team of filmmakers tried something new with “Mary and Max.” When most filmmakers would choose to play it safe, he was fearless enough to make something daringly different. We should reward that fearlessness, by giving “Mary and Max” some time out of our day.

 

“Mary and Max” is available to stream now on Netflix Instant.

 

Have you seen “Mary and Max?” Are you interested? Let me know in the comments below.