As long as you don’t choose, everything remains possible.
The year is 2092, his name is Nemo Nobody. He’s 118 years old, and one of the last mortals on earth; but there is no record of his existence anywhere. His psychiatrist and a journalist try and uncover the mystery that is Nemo Nobody, and after he is placed under hypnosis, details of his past begin to emerge. Nemo’s life changed dramatically at age 9, when his mother and father got divorced; and to make matters worse, they tell Nemo that he must decide which parent he wants to live with. But that is far too difficult a decision for a boy of nine to make, so he chooses instead to make none at all. Standing still between a life with either his mother or father, Nemo creates many possible outcomes; but he can only choose one of them.
Ever hear of the paradox of Schrodinger’s Cat? It basically states that if you put a cat in a box with a poison that might kill him, without seeing inside the box, the cat is both alive and dead. Mr. Nobody is a little bit like this; since Nemo can’t decide which parent to live with, his indecision creates a separate, yet simultaneous life with both his mom and dad. (In my humble opinion, it is a chicken shi*t thing for any parent to put this kind of pressure on a young child) -Okay enough with the editorializing. This film is sheer fantasy, of course we can’t live many lives at once, but it makes sense in the mind of a child, hurt by his parents’ inability to work through their marital difficulties, to create this kind of make believe world.
If you prefer a linear film going experience, Mr. Nobody may not be for you. This film doesn’t come close to moving in a straight line, it is a jagged trek through the mind of a small boy placed in a ridiculously difficult position. And because it moves in leaps and bounds not just through one life but through many, I have to tell you, it made my head hurt trying to write this review. Still, I absolutely love this movie!
Here’s one reason why: Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club) is amazing. I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve seen his work, and if this film is any indication, he is brilliance wrapped up in a handsome little package. He plays Nemo as the old man, and you would hardly know it was him. The makeup is excellent, he has the weathered look of a centenarian, but it’s his demeanor that sells the whole package. Leto changes the tenor of his voice and moves his body in the realistic manner of someone of that age. As the elder man harkens back to his many lives, we also see Leto as a thirty-something Nemo, struggling through the many parallel existences, looking for a purpose to his life that he finds only when he’s in the timeline with his true love Anna (Diane Kruger Inglourious Basterds). One of my favorite lines from the film is delivered by Leto as the old man, when asked by the journalist what his life was like when he was younger. He replies, “Most of the time nothing happened, like in a French movie.” A humorous knock by the Belgium born director on his neighbors to the south.
15 year old Nemo is played by Toby Regbo. We see more brilliance on hand as the teenaged Nemo is living in a timeline with his mom. He is miserable after she begins a new life with the man she left his father for. He resents both of them of course, but it is because of this infidelity that he meets his one and only, Anna. We also get a glimpse of Nemo as a teen in a life with his father. In this existence his relationship with dad is far better than that with mom. Here, Nemo’s father depends on his young son to take care of him because he is suffering with some form of dementia; but it’s clear that Nemo loves his father dearly. In this life he meets Elise (Sarah Polley, Dawn of the Dead), and once they grow up she becomes his wife. But if he makes a different choice he can end up marrying Jean (Linh Dan Pham, Indochine), a woman who adores Nemo, but he only tolerates. Each relationship is doomed however, because no matter the timeline, Nemo wants to be with Anna.
The heart of Mr. Nobody lies with nine year old Nemo played by Thomas Byrne. His portrayal of a young boy in turmoil is done with a depth that is hard to imagine coming from such a young child. It is his hesitancy to choose between two parents he loves, that sparks these many possible lives. Like anyone would, he wishes he could plot out the right course in order to get the best possible outcome; but even with careful planning there are no guarantees in life.
Mr. Nobody (Blu-ray) is presented in 2.35:1/1080p HD, a beautiful film that is more dependent on the visual presentation than it is on the dialogue. Even so, the DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio gives a crisp and clear auditory experience, highlighted by the wonderful soundtrack by the late Pierre Van Dormael, who is the deceased brother of director Jaco Van Dormael. It is a soothing and beautiful accompaniment, the perfect fit to a film that deftly explores the what-ifs of life. Extras include a making of featurette, deleted scenes, the AXS TV: Look at Mr. Nobody, the films’ trailer, and the R-rated theatrical version.
Mr. Nobody is a wonderfully schizophrenic burst of energy that explores the fear in all of us that we might make a choice we will live to regret. Nemo knows he cannot go back once he’s made his choice, and in his fear, Nemo stands still, hoping to see what those possibilities are before moving forward.