Said to be based on a true story, lonely 8 year old Australian girl Mary surprises 44 year old Max, a New Yorker with Asperger's, with a letter.
Max writes Mary that he has attended an Overeaters Anonymous meeting (0:14), but later he admits the meetings are not working. (0:35) He says he is "trying to lose weight because "my psychiatrist Dr. Bernard Hazelhof says a healthy body equals a healthy mind." We see the psychiatrist performing a hand stand on his desk (0:16). Max writes that the psychiatrist tells him he should, "never eat anything bigger than your head." (0:34)
Max tells what it’s like to be Max. How accurately does he describe what it’s like to be an Aspie?
- can't understand "nonverbal signals."
- copes with stress by standing on a stool in a corner. (0:15)
- is good with numbers. (0:22)
- "People often confuse me." (0:23)
- eats the same food every Monday, Tuesday, etc. but on Saturdays he creates his own recipes, and on Sundays soup prepared by his neighbor Ivy. (0:34)
- "cannot understand how being honest can be improper. Maybe this is why I don't have any friends." (0:36)
- experiences anxiety about love which led him to give someone an inappropriate gift. He "felt love but couldn't articulate it." (0:41)
- lists even more typical traits after he writes Mary that Asperger's is his diagnosis. He says Dr. Bernard Hazelhof told him his "brain is defective." (0:51)
- wishes he could “cry properly.”
- invents neologisms: confuzzle, smushable, etc
- but he writes, "I like being an Aspie." (0:54)
Max writes that he was rejected from jury duty "because they found out I'd been a mental patient..." (0:21)
Mary writes that her neighbor Len "is scared of outside, which is a disease called homophobia." (0:29)
Mary writes Max that kids often tease her, triggering Max’s own “buried” (and disturbing) memories of being teased. (0:32)
Mary writes that her neighbor Damian stutters. (0:40, 1:02)
Max’s ruminations about love lead to such overwhelming anxiety and stress that, as the New York Times headline proclaims, "Obese Retarded Man Craned Out" and an ambulance takes him to a “mental ward” for eight months of treatment of "severe depression and obesity" with Phenergan, Valium, Zoloft and even shock therapy. [Aspies can get the same other mental illnesses normies get.] (0:43)
After Max’s air conditioner falls out of the wall and kills a street mime performing below, Max is tried for manslaughter, but acquitted as “mentally deficient.” (0:46);
Max takes Valium when Mary's letters induce anxiety. (0:57)
Mary’s father Noel dies in a tsunami while fishing. (1:00)
Mary attends university to study "disorders of the mind." We see her reading The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. (1:01)
Vera copes Noel’s death with increased consumption of alcohol. She dies when she accidentally drinks embalming fluid. (1:04)
Mary, now more sophisticated in her terminology, writes about her neighbor “Len still struggling with his agoraphobia." (1:06)
Mary reads Pretending to Be Normal, writes her thesis on Asperger’s using her knowledge of Max, then publishes a book, "Dissecting the Aspergers Mind." (1:07)
Max, upset on learning of Mary’s book, takes more Valium. (1:08)
Mary, now drinking heavily and almost alwyas intoxicated after learning of Max’s reaction to her book, staggers to the mail box. (1:12)
Max, referring to his facial expression booklet, smiles for the first time in the film. (1:17)
Mary, despondent, finds Valium in a cabinet, stands on a table with a noose around her neck, a can of sweetened condensed milk (her favorite) in her right hand, and a handful of Valium in the left. The noose disappears. The walls turn black and objects swirl. The noose reappears, but Len, having conquered his agoraphobia, interrupts her by bringing a box sent by Max. (1:19)
According to Max Dr Bernard Hazelhof says we have to accept ourselves “warts and all.” (1:23)
Mary with her new baby enters Max’s apartment, but finds him dead. (1:26)
How will this film affect attitudes toward people with the disorders portrayed?