“One of the most pretentious movies ever made.”
“This film’s only high point is when it ends.”
“The film is diabolically vapid.”
“A painful exercise in pointlessness.”
“This film is horrifically boring.”
“One of the best films of the year.”
All of these quotes from film critics refer to Mr. Nobody, a film Walter and I watched together at the cinema over a year ago and which I watched again today on DVD. As you can tell from these quotes, it’s one of those love-it or hate-it kind of films. The fact that I was eager to watch it again tells you which camp I’m in.
Mr. Nobody is a gorgeous profound film about how the choices we make every minute can put our life on a different track and send us on an entirely different journey. Other films have done this, but they usually suggest that one or more of those choices lead us on the wrong track. Mr. Nobody tells us that each track has value and meaning and that life needs to be treated like a playground. The films conveys this in words but also in a brilliantly-conceived and innovative story that shows you what the words mean.
Mr. Nobody could be called: “The Many Possible Lives of Nemo Nobody”. Nemo’s parents separate when he is nine years old and force him to choose between them. Nemo apparently has the ability to see the future, so he can look at the countless paths to which this one decision can lead and can even look back on them from the age of 118 in 2092. The result is a fascinating journey through time, dancing back and forth through Nemo’s life from the age of nine to fifteen to 35 to 118. Jared Leto plays the adult Nemo and his performance is magnificent. Why is this young actor (who was also great in Requiem for a Dream) not starring in more films? The child and teenage Nemo are also very well played and indeed the acting of the entire supporting cast of this long film is excellent.
The cinematography and score of Mr. Nobody are likewise outstanding and the special effects are remarkable given that this is an independent film. Mr. Nobody is actually a Canadian-Belgian-French-German co-production, filmed in each of those countries and with an international cast. It was written and directed by the Belgian Jaco van Dormael, who must be a genius. This is his first English-language film.
I won’t say the film is perfect, but if you like thoughtful and beautiful films and don’t require a payoff that makes sense of everything, you should give this film, which has had very little exposure, a look. I have only read a handful of reviews of Mr. Nobody (from which I got the above quotes), but not one of them came close to expressing what I got out of the film. In fact, I’m quite sure I liked it more on second viewing, which is one of my criteria for favourite films. Far from being bored, I was completely absorbed for the entire 157 minutes.
At one point in Mr. Nobody, the nine-year-old Nemo states that everything remains possible as long as you don’t choose. Exactly! As a man who has made it a priority to keep as many options open as possible, I resonate completely with this sentiment. But can you really decide not to choose? I’m giving this rare gem ****. My mug is up - this is my idea of what filmmaking is about.