Here is an arty film only for those of you who are willing to give it your full attention. It you decide to look away, multitask while watching, sleep (honestly, if you’re that tired don’t even try to watch this film), or anything else that will distract you from what’s happening on-screen, wait to watch it. If you disregard this warning, you’ll probably have a frustrating viewing experience. Actually, that might be the case anyway.
Mr. Nobody is a film that explores the idea that whenever you are faced with a choice, all of the potential outcomes from whichever decision you make creates a separate world. Do I want a lemon candy, or a lime one? Either way, the choice I don’t make still creates a different world where a separate me lives in that world eating that particularly flavor of candy. When faced with another choice, the worlds spilt apart again. People make thousands of choices every day. You can see how this would get confusing to film, so luckily, we don’t get thousands of different storylines — it just often feels that way.
At the crux of the story is a 118-year-old man named Nemo Nobody (portrayed as an adult and as an old man by Jared Leto). He is the last mortal on the face of the planet, as everyone else has managed to become immortal thanks to stem cells and, surprisingly, pigs. A journalist (Daniel Mays) interviews him, and a psychiatrist (Allan Corduner) examines him. They’re trying to figure out exactly what he can remember, which, given his age, proves to be more difficult than anyone could expect, especially considering everything he tells them is contradictory (which the journalist rightly points out to him near the end of the film).
For the most part, we’re getting the life stories of Nemo. There are certain things we know for sure. He has two parents (Rhys Ifans and Natasha Little), and he believes that he can see the future. Of course, his parents don’t believe that, but he tells us that before birth, children know everything. The indent under one’s nose is from being silenced by angels which removes all of your knowledge. Little Nemo was missed, and that’s how he gains this ability.
His parents end up splitting up. He has to decide which parent to stay with. He doesn’t make the decision up until the moment when his mother is already on a train, and his father is at the platform. The train begins to depart, and he runs after it. But his father calls for him as well, causing him to look back. What choice does he make? We see outcomes from both sides. We also see, in an opening montage, that he dies in a lot of these potential worlds.
There are also three women, whom we see during Nemo’s childhood all sitting on a bench together. Whether that really happened or if it was just convenient for the viewer to be introduced to the three possibilities, I’m unsure. It’s convenient that they all wear different dress colors, and that whatever color they wear here is very prominent in the future where he marries that girl.
I’ll list the women and their adult actors, but that’s about as much as I can give you. There are multiple futures with each of them, and to describe each one would be both boring and pointless. First is Anna (Diane Kruger), second is Jean (Linh Dan Pham), and third is Elise (Sarah Polley). They each have teenage and child actors as well (all with varying accents for some reason), but you can look at a cast list if you really want to see find out who plays each character.
So, what does this mean for the viewer? It means that you’re going to be bombarded with information and if you’re not willing to accept that, you have no reason to watch Mr. Nobody. I suppose you could just sit back and admire the gorgeous cinematography and listen to the (mostly licensed) soundtrack. That might be satisfactory enough, but the multiple storylines will be lost. I know I couldn’t keep track of how many different ones were going on, and I was paying close attention. I can only imagine what it would be like for someone who wasn’t willing to give the film his or her undivided attention.
Mr. Nobody is so weird to sit through. You experience it, but always seem disconnected from it. It’s like watching an absolutely stunning thing being spawned in front of you, but you have no power over it and no emotional connection to it. But somehow, some way, it manages to worm its way into your brain and make you reflect upon, well, everything. This is a film that wants you think not only about your past, but about your future. Again, participatory audiences will be the only ones to reap the full benefits from such a film.
The actors are fine here, although maybe the real praise should go to whoever managed to make Jared Leto look 118 years old. Whether it was done with CGI, makeup, prosthetics, a little bit of all three, or by magic, it was very convincing. Leto hams is up while playing his elder character (to some hilarious results), but it’s effective once certain revelations occur. Oh, this is also a film that will feel very different on a second viewing. You’ll both go in with an alternative perspective, while also knowing enough about the story to follow along more easily.
To guard against continuing to type yet say nothing of value, as I feel I have mostly done in this review, I’ll conclude here. Mr. Nobody is a film that you must be willing to give not only your time (it lasts well over two hours, especially if you watch the extended cut), but also your attention. You need to be willing to make the effort, and even then, it might be possible that the film will be confusing. It’s certainly not for everyone, but if it sounds like your type of film, you’ll have to track down a copy, as it’ll be well worth the time and effort. At least, it was for me.