Reviews By Mark Ziobro

It often takes directors without anything to prove to make a statement. We’ve seen this with films written and directed by the same person, such as the late Bill Paxton’s excellent “Frailty.” With the 2009 effort “Mr. Nobody,” written and directed by Jaco Van Dormael, we find a film that blends fantasy and reality, and a film that touches on some of the unspoken emotions of the human heart. Regrettably, a disjointed film with a slow pace that would have been overlong at 1 hour and 30 minutes becomes
cumbersome at 2 hours and 20; but those who stay with it will find introspection and food for thought – or at the very least a unique film going experience.

Jared Leto leads the cast of this mostly indie film, and his penchant for off the cuff films isn’t lost within the confines of “Mr. Nobody.” The plot of the film is hard to describe, as most of it is filmed as a dream
jumping from place to place, but centers on a boy, named Nemo, played by a host of actors through different ages and faced with an impossible choice. His parents are separating and he must chose who he wants to live with. Unable to, he finds that anything is possible (this the film shows us this in great detail) as long as he doesn’t chose any one action.

“Mr. Nobody” has sci-fi elements, and waxes and wanes from instances of Nemo’s youth to his placement in a hospital as a 118-year-old man nearing death. The facility Nemo resides in is labeled New New York Hospital, and the futuristic city that it inhabits is reminiscent of Coruscant in George Lucas’ “Star Wars” prequels, with shining glass towers and pristinely clean interiors.

The whole backdrop of the film is interweaved with a common theme: a modern society where people no longer die, with Nemo’s impending death from old age televised and covered with interest. A journalist sneaks into his hospital room; it is from his discussions with the journalist that the events of the film – and of Nemo’s bizarre life – are shown to us. We see outcomes of Nemo’s life had he made either choice (to stay with his mother or his father) occur as reality, and to be frank, a hefty suspension of disbelief
is necessary to get through the film. We see such things as first loves of Nemo, and the lives of his mother and father throughout. But the events are filmed in a way akin to films like “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” or Leto’s 2000 film “Requiem for a Dream.” “Mr. Nobody” is not a film of
chronology, but one of substance.

Perhaps it is only through a film like this that events such as possible separations of teenage lovers are felt with pain and heartache  within moments where romantic dramas often take their entire run-time to make the same statement. For a film that takes place in the future, many of the film’s early events take place in what appears to be the ‘80s, and are scored as such. Songs such as “99 Luftballoons” by Nena or “Where is my Mind?” by Pixies (which scores one of the film’s most cheerful sequence) are present, sandwiched between classical music from artists like Erik Satie and I Fiamminghi. It often takes a good soundtrack to make a movie resonate and stay with you. And like the subtle use of a quiet piano on the
emotional indie “Live-Love,” the soundtrack of “Mr. Nobody” makes you feel the events
of the movie as real emotions, not merely occurrences or plots. The acting of the film is good, with Leto
carrying adult Nemo’s scenes well, and somehow making us accept the film’s bizarre occurrences throughout. He’s backed by others who all do a good job as well such as Diane Krueger, Sarah Polley, Rhys Ifans, Juno Temple, and Clare stone. Daniel Mays, who plays the journalist, doesn’t offer much but
questions, but does well in a role designed without much depth.

If criticisms of the film do come, it’s namely in  the length, which is arduous to get through
at times, where viewing seems more like a chore than an experience. A trip to the editing room could have shaved 20-30 mins from the film and made it more marketable – but you get the impression that Dormael’s vision would have gotten lost along the way, so it’s ultimately forgivable.

Additionally, the film’s chaotic and dreamlike filming style may lose some who are looking for a straightforward narrative. “Mr. Nobody” is about emotion and introspection, not plot. if you’re a fan
of movies such as “Vanilla Sky” or the aforementioned “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” you will probably find easy footing here. But ultimately many film goers may be lost amidst a film produced for
those with a lust for the bizarre and those with a lot of patience.

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