"Mary and Max" is better than you can imagine.
I've gushed intoxicatedly many times here, but at the moment, I'm not particularly drunk at all. But I am stunned to the point of near-speechlessness.
Mary and Max is about as wonderfully constructed a film as can be made.
Visually, it's a simple but beautiful "claymation" (maybe "minuature armiture" is more appropriate) piece. The visuals are exquisitely detailed, and the texture... oh, my the texture! But that's really just the dressing for the storytelling.
Right off the bat, the narration has a poetic and rhythmic pattern that can't help but pull you in to the hilariously quirky and emotionally honest world that the characters inhabit. By "emotionally honest", I mean that you will feel the truth and the feeling of everything that transpires. Well, I did; maybe even a bit too much...
Max is an oddball middle-aged Asperger's loner in New York City; Mary is an outcast young girl in a dysfunctional family in Australia. They become penpals, but there's nothing particularly cliche about how their interaction evolves. There's a lot of funny, especially in the details -- but there's so much earnestness and sincerity that you can't help but be swept up in what happens as they both grow older.
And the ending will leave you in tears, no matter how stoically you resist. But you'll still feel good about it. You'll still feel a part of it.
While Max is an illustration of a rather extreme situation, I can't help but identify with him in many ways; as if he's a gross exaggeration of my own shortcomings and quirks. And yet, so is Mary, and I identify with her as well. There's so much basic human pathos and mentality being explored, but so simply and effectively, that it can't help but have every moment ring true. And funny. And sad-funny. And true-sad. And true-funny. And that makes it beautiful.