Mr. Nobody (2009)


(director/writer: Jaco Van Dormael; cinematographer: Christophe Beaucarne; editors: Susan Shipton/Matyas Veress; music: Pierre van Dormael; cast: Jared Leto (Nemo Nobody), Diane Kruger (Adult Anna), Sarah Polley (Adult Elise), Toby Regbo (15 Year Old Nemo), Natasha Little (The Mother), Rhys Ifans (The Father), Juno Temple (15 Year Old Anna), Clara Stone (15 Year Old Elise), Daniel Mays (Young Journalist), Linh-Dan Pham (Adult Jeanne), Allan Corduner (Dr Feldheim), Michael Riley (Harry), Thomas Byrne (9 Year Old Nemo), Audrey Giacomini (15 Year Old Jeanne); Runtime: 128; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Philippe Godeau; Magnolia; 2009-France/Germany/Belgium/Canada-in English and German, with English subtitles when necessary)
“Messy but intriguing science-fiction film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The messy but intriguing science-fiction film is directed-written by cult-favorite Belgian filmmaker Jaco Van Dormael(“The Eight Day”/”Toto the Hero”). It’s his first English-language film.

The story is set in 2092 and involves the world’s last mortal human being, the 118-year-old Nemo (Jared Leto), who is confused and doesn’t know who he is or how old and is being treated by the tattooed-faced psychiatrist Dr. Feldheim (Allan Corduner). In the futuristic world, all the inhabitants live as long as they like, and the unique Mr. Nobody, on his hospital deathbed, catches the interest of the young journalist (Daniel Mays) who gets him to tell his mortal story that took him here but without quite grasping how one could live multiple lives.

The plot revolves around the 9-year-old Britisher Nemo Nobody (Thomas Byrne) in the 1980s at a train station with his divorced parents, with mom (Natasha Little) set to depart for North America and dad (Rhys Ifans) determined to stay in England. The kid must decide if getting on the train with mom is the right choice, and this setup is played out throughout showing the kid examining all possibilities and thereby living out these choices. The teens (played by Toby Regbo) and the three possible adults (also played by Jared Leto), all roles as a result of a possible decision at the train station. The thought behind this scenario is: “As long as he doesn’t choose, anything is possible.”

In the scenario where he’s living with his remarried mom, Nemo’s stepsister Anna (Diane Kruger as an adult, Juno Temple as the 15-year-old) is the love of Nemo’s life. But fate keeps them apart. At a dance Nemo meets Elise (Sarah Polley) and she becomes his depressed tearful wife, whom he hopelessly loves but her mental illness ruins their relationship. Then Nemo became a science-fiction writer and marries Jeanne (Linh-Dan Pham), who is the perfect suburban wife. But Nemo doesn’t love her despite finding married life comfortable.

Impressive production values, costumes, colorful visuals of futuristic cityscapes, and clever Sliding Doors like plot construction do not clear up the pic’s confusion about what’s going down, which leaves things unfocused and makes its underlying point about the effects of chance being a major influence on our life difficult to digest at one sitting.

The provocative pic references cinema icons such as Spielberg, Kubrick, Wilder and Rohmer, film gods that the talented Van Dormael might appreciate but as of yet has not attained their mastery of film.