Directed By: Jaco Von Dormael
Starring: Jared Leto, Diane Kruger, Sarah Polley, Linh Dan Pham
It’s 2092, and 118 year old Nemo (Jared Leto) is recounting his life story to a reporter. He appears confused, often thinking that he is only thirty-four years of age. His story becomes more convoluted as he tells of his life at three primary points: at age nine (when his parents divorced); age sixteen and age thirty-four. Woven into this story are the tales of alternate life paths, often changing course with the flick of a decision at each of those ages. One life path has him ultimately married to Elise (Sarah Polley), a depressed woman who never got over the unrequited love she had for a guy named Stefano, when she was a teenager; and who asked Nemo to swear that when she died he would sprinkle her ashes on Mars. A second life path has him married to Jean (Linh Dan Pham). Their life is one of luxury but one also of utter boredom. The third involves Nemo with his step sister Anna. They have a passionate affair but are torn apart; damned to spend the rest of their lives thinking or searching for one another.
The question is; which of the life strands is reality?
This is a complex, multi-layered, head-kick of a movie that will probably appeal to those of you who enjoyed the time-twisting and ethereal Donnie Darko or even the parallel universe melodrama Southland Tales (both directed by Richard Kelly).
The whole film is based upon a key decision that nine year old Nemo has to make; do I go with my Mother (following his parent’s divorce) or do I remain with my Father? As an old man, Nemo sees the many lives that either decision could have generated or did generate. Confused? Don’t worry, you won’t be alone. My telling you of this decision is, in effect, a spoiler as it is not revealed until about 20 minutes from the end of the movie. By knowing this detail you might enjoy the movie more. The boy’s imagination, as to what fate(s) await him, dependant on the mental flip of a coin lead to a multi-verse of strands that culminate with time reversing and taking the decision away. The dimension of time is broken down in the boy’s imagination and interpreted in a non-linear way. The journalist reflects the boy’s questioning of his own thoughts and ideas, in an attempt to make order of the chaos. Every single choice affects the future. This concept is reflected in scientific terms through String theory, Chaos theory and The Butterfly Effect. The latter is explicitly presented in a number of scenes; notably the use of a leaf and the raindrop that obscures and removes Anna’s phone number.
Reality is made up of the different choices in life, seen from a 9 year old perspective, which has the power of imagination; therefore we cannot accurately know that the future that the 118 year old Nemo inhabits is correct. Given the nature of the future, the elder Nemo inhabits, I’d guess that it is the child’s view of where humanity ends up. To the viewer, it’s not a stretch to believe that we could have found a way to become immortal, but the idea seems to simplistic and the future landscape just a little too over the top.
Mr Nobody’s “plot” involves a number of ontological discussion points about the nature of time and how an individual’s decisions affect it. The memories, if that’s what we call them, are filmed in distinct styles to separate each parallel life and give them identities and reference points. This careful and methodical presentation greatly helps when the lifelines entwine and become more involved.
Without wanting to sound any more pretentious than I might have already sounded: Even if you don’t understand some of the science and theory I have explained, you might well enjoy the movie for what it is and sub-consciously “get” what is going on. It’s beautifully photographed, well acted, has a great soundtrack and arresting visuals. With no word of a lie, I actually felt two instances of déjà-vu watching it: Seriously! I’m not sure why and what it meant and that might come to explaining quite how the movie affected me.
The Blu-Ray makes a stunning looking, visually exciting movie come into its own. The soundscape is adequate for a movie of this type and frankly I didn’t noticed it because I was so immersed in the plot.
Perversely, the 160 minute running time isn’t enough to fully flesh out the movie’s themes. Even after the credits roll, I found myself thinking about the movie and felt that I could have sat through an hour more. It’s a great shame that Mr Nobody didn’t receive a wide cinema distribution, but then if the general cinema going public thought Inception was complex, I’m not sure what they’d make of this. If it had been sold as a kind of cross between Benjamin Button and Amelie, it might have stood a chance. Sadly, we’ll never know. I hope that this movie gets recognition on DVD and Blu-Ray because it deserves to be seen.
Mr Nobody is out now at the usual retailers.