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Film review
Mary and Max
  1. Rory Conn
  1. Correspondence to Dr Rory Conn, Trainee psychiatrist, Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust, London, UK; rconn{at}

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Written and directed by Adam Elliot, 2009

Such is the unique and daring ambition of this multi-award winning clay animation that all of its characters, bar none, suffer a physical or mental affliction. As such, Mary and Max is a fascinating artistic achievement and an inexhaustible resource for medical educators and academics.

Welcome to Australia, 1976, where our omniscient narrator introduces the ‘complicated soul’ Mary—a lonely, depressed 8-year-old girl.

As an only child, with a facially disfiguring birthmark and alcoholic, emotionally distant parents (her mother a chain-smoking kleptomaniac, her father a reclusive taxidermist), she has endured an isolated and deeply troubled childhood.

By chance, Mary strikes up a long distance pen-pal friendship with a 44-year-old Jewish man from New York, Max. He has Asperger's syndrome, is morbidly obese and suffers from severe anxiety. He has a one-eyed cat, a blind neighbour and an invisible friend called Mr Ravioli. His mother killed herself, we learn, when he was 6 years old. So far, so bleak. And …

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  • Provenance and peer review Commisioned; not externally peer reviewed.