“Mary and Max” is an Australian claymation film about a spunky yet lonely young girl, Mary Daisy Dinkle, who randomly tears a piece out of a Manhattan phone book she was reading in a post office, and writes to a complete stranger, Max Jerry Horovitz. Max is an overweight recluse, mistrustful of others, and most at peace when he’s in his orderly apartment.
Well, that’s where I differ from Max: my apartment is usually somewhat chaotic.
Max, however, has Asperger’s.
Max and Mary strike up a penpal relationship, taking joy in writing and receiving one another’s letters.
This struck so close to home for me. I’ve been recovering from a complete mental implosion. I couldn’t read books; I couldn’t write blog posts. For months, I was just in this indescribably dark, soul-sucking place. It was a black hole. No light could escape. The only thing I could really do was write letters. By hand. On actual paper with my actual hand holding an actual pen. This is something…well, I have lousy handwriting, and I just never write anything. At work, I jot down notes, but they’re huge and messy, diagonal across a piece of scratch-paper.
There was something therapeutic about writing letters. I sent postcards to people. Some wrote back; some didn’t. I found stores that sold cheap souvenirs. I sent sharks teeth and starfish all over the continent. Christina Heart and I wrote letters weekly, and exchanged care packages with stuff we found. She crocheted me a zombie vampire, whom I named Vladimir.
My real-life friend, Michelle, came down every Friday for breakfast. This was so therapeutic for me. She and I would take Vlad out, and get people to pose with him. The girl above was walking across the Siesta Beach parking lot. Michelle and I accosted her, and asked her to pose. She agrees. I doubt she even remembers doing it.
But the letters…
I found some solace in writing and receiving letters. Not e-mails; nothing typed on a computer and printed. Honest-to-God letters.
As time moved on this summer, I found I could read and write again. I could actually turn a phrase that didn’t suck Howard Cosell’s desiccated nards. (sorry for that image)
Hell, I just spelled “desiccated” correctly the first time, and it has a dumb spelling (like “judgment,” as previously argued).
Even though I can plow semi-Kellishly through books again, and write inane blog posts, I still find solace in writing a letter by hand. I’m in the middle of one now. I have my legal pads stacked tom-neatly, and all my pens in a Hershey’s Kiss tin Christina Heart gave me.
When I first watched “Mary and Max” a few months ago, I was still in The Black Hole. I was shocked that a claymation film could be so serious. All I was seeing was the joylessness in Mary’s and Max’s lives. I think it’s because my own was so joyless.
This time around, when I’m healed a little more, I see how the letters were therapeutic to both the reader and the writer. Max went through some real shit–institutionalized for eight months, for example–but he found his way to cope. Mary, too, found her way to happiness, at least for awhile.
I guess that seeing this film now, after four months beyond The Abyss, I see how those letters poked little holes in the darkness.
There hasn’t been a lot of light the past four months. The cards and letters and packages from all over…they’ve helped me so much. SENDING cards and letters and packages all over…this has helped me as well.
“Mary and Max” is a story of two people in depressing worlds, 10,000 miles away from one another. There are moments of laughter and joy. But mainly, it’s the story of how these two people in their respective dark places, could shoot a bolt of sunshine into another person’s life.
Those bolts are precious.
Trust me on this one.
(Thanks, Bekki, for making me watch it)
(Sorry: it seemed to bog down a bit in the middle; Phillip Seymour Hoffman voiced Max, and he was (surprise!) brilliant)
PS: WP always brings up a sidebar telling me my next goal (ie, “This is your 879th post. Your next goal is 880!!!!!” (Horsepenis. My goal is just to live through the night)). There’s always a little writing-related quote, too. After this post, the quote made me smile with it’s poignance:
To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart. Phyllis Theroux
Well played, Word Press. Well played.