Film Review – Mr. Nobody
Mr. Nobody is a film that should have been out in the U.S. four years ago. Originally released on the festival circuit in 2009 and with release dates in European countries and others from 2009 to 2010, the film failed to attract any major fanfare or a U.S. distributor. Magnolia Pictures finally released it to the U.S. in September via digital downloads and video on demand. It will make its way into theaters in November.
Writer and director Jaco Van Dormael weaves one of the most complex films about time, choices, and how those affect our paths in life. Mr. Nobody centers on Nemo (Jared Leto) and his many possible lives. Starting with meeting one of three girls and his parents’ divorce, the film goes through each path that Nemo could possibly take. There is an endpoint; Old Nemo in the future is on death’s door and is attempting to recall his memories of the past. By doing so, he proceeds to confuse his attendant (possibly his doctor or psychologist) and a reporter by regaling them with his tales.
Van Dormael admits that he created a labyrinth, and while it may not be so confusing for him, he tried to make it less so for his cast and crew while filming. Making a film of this level of complexity is astounding. I could not keep track of all the different versions of Nemo, but Van Dormael clarified it as nine Nemos in an interview with him. While the confusion of trying to keep track of which of Nemo’s many paths is currently on screen boggles the mind, this is not a bad movie. It is a well shot, expertly designed film that will keep you guessing about what is going to pop up next.
Mostly known for My So-Called Life, Requiem for a Dream, and his band 30 Seconds to Mars, Jared Leto has certainly not picked the conventional road to stardom, which may not be something he even wants. He seems to pick and choose roles and devote himself to the creation of the character. While buzz is stirring about his performance as Rayon in the upcoming Dallas Buyers Club, Mr. Nobody reinforces his talent as an actor. He does not shy away from challenging roles. Here, he plays so many different versions of the same person, just altered in the path chosen. All are Nemo, but his choices to get to that point change who he became. Leto performs all nine different versions of Nemo—not an easy task. Some required different hair and makeup, with the most extreme being old Nemo. That is Leto under impressive aging makeup, and his own voice doing an impression of an old man. At first, I thought that possibly it was not him in that makeup, but his telltale blue eyes, though glazed over, gave him away. This is a great performance.
Van Dormael’s film has some striking similarities to Cloud Atlas in both the look of the film and how it portrays the different time periods and life, especially in the future, which is oddly depicted. There is also some imagery in the future that is reminiscent of The Hunger Games and its sensationalistic use of ordinary people as celebrities. The film’s supporting cast includes Diane Kruger, Sarah Polley, and Linh Dan Pham as Nemo’s three love interests and wives. Juno Temple plays a younger version of Diane Kruger’s Anna. Natasha Little and Rhys Ifans play Nemo’s parents, the ones who force Nemo to make the first huge choice in his life. The cast all together is solid, as they are used many times through the film to portray their own different versions of their characters.
Mr. Nobody is a relevant story for everyone. There is always that moment where you know if you go one way instead of another, your life could be very different. How do you choose? Should you choose? We all know our lives could be vastly different from the present if we had not taken that job, married that person, or simply made that right turn instead of left. This film truly explores all the possibilities. In the end, old Nemo does reveal what path his life really did take and what love he embraced, but the film ends a little cryptically, and there is not any explanation as to why it ends the way it does. It is all about time, after all. This is not the most commercial film, but it certainly was a feat to create, film, and perform in. Be prepared for an odd, confusing story, but certainly not a boring one.