What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this stop-action animated drama is not for young children. Although the style of animation is popular in movies like Fanastic Mr. Fox and Coraline, this film-festival-hit indie isn't appropriate for single-digit-aged kiddos. There are the far too many grown-up themes, including sexuality, substance abuse, body image problems, severe depression, Asperger's diagnosis, and suicide. Many of the characters drink and smoke all the time, and the protagonist pen pals (who are eight and 44 when the movie begins) discuss everything from how babies are conceived to bullying to loneliness to atheism. Ultimately, this is a completely unsentimental but beautiful look at a highly unusual, inter-generational, long-distance friendship, but it's best for mature teens and parents who know that sometimes the unlikeliest people can become your best friends.
- Families can talk about Mary and Max's long-distance friendship. In the movie, they are the other's best friend and influence the other profoundly, but how would such a relationship be considered in real life? Did Mary's mother have a compelling reason not to want her to correspond with Max?
- How are the issues of substance abuse, depression, suicide, and Max's Asperger's diagnosis handled? Was it odd to see such a candid approach to such heavy themes in an animated movie?
- Body image is a consistent issue in the movie. How do Mary and Max each come to terms with their bodies? How does plastic surgery "change" Mary? What about group therapy for Max's overeating?
- Parents, this is a perfect opportunity to discuss friends you rarely see but who've made a big difference in your life. Also make sure your kids know that they can come to YOU with all the issues Mary struggled with first.