MR. NOBODY Movie Review
Somewhere beneath Mr. Nobody there’s a frustratingly brilliant piece of work. This experimental science fiction drama is the first English language effort from Belgian filmmaker Jaco Van Dormael and the first we’ve seen from him since The Eighth Day in 1996. Those unfamiliar with the mechanics of quantum physics or the Many-worlds interpretation theory might end up scratching your head more than once as this science based philosophy lecture unfolds in it’s non-linear narrative form. Debating this film’s accuracy on a scientific level would be completely pointless, I don’t own a physics degree and I prefer to judge films on a purely cinematic level. It’s important to note that the current edit that I viewed is sixteen minutes shorter than the previous cut that proceeded it, however one can’t assume how significant that lost footage could be in providing a coherent narrative.
This film centers around the character Nemo which is latin for ‘nobody’. We are first properly introduced to him at the age of 120 in the year 2092 as he’s portrayed by Jared Leto in a career defining performance. Nemo is awoken in a hospital room by a sneaky reporter who wants the scoop on Nemo’s past. This is one of many classic film references that can be spotted along the way, this one of course being a tip of the hat to Orson Welles. To explain the reporter’s curiosity, Nemo is special because he is the last of mortal men. This could be because he wasn’t blessed with quasi-immortality from pig based stem cell research like the others or it could be because he was untouched by the angels which left his gifts and memories in tact. For your benefit I will stray from going analytical and keep us on the beaten path, no matter how much that goes against the principles explored in this film. The simplest way to describe Nemo in relation to the film itself is to think of him like the universe. He was born and he expanded then contracted back in reverse, it’s an endless cycle. He’s like a metaphysical architect and his existential blue prints are ideas or choices that can be made or ignored. He can imagine all the possibilities or leave them up to chance. All of his life decisions or lack thereof revolve around two major incidents that we’ll assume for the sake of our own sanity really happened.
A connected experience always makes films important or enjoyable but when lack of focus distracts from the narrative, the film will suffer for it. No matter how innovative or thought provoking the intentions are, they can never replace coherence. There’s enough beauty and mental stimulation here to peak my interest in viewing the longer cut and in this film’s defense there are way too many themes explored to warrant one viewing anyways. Hopefully what’s missing is that link that allows me to connect to Nemo and have a stake in all of his personal journeys. You have to respect a film that aims this high, maybe some day we’ll see Van Dormael get there.
For more information on Mr. Nobody visit the official website.