Mr. Nobody

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Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Robin Clifford 
Mr. Nobody
Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Laura Clifford 

It is the year 2092 and 118-year old Nemo Nobody (Jared Leto) is the oldest living mortal on earth. As his death draws near, public interest in his story brings a young reporter (Daniel Mays) to his bedside to get the details of the old man’s life. The journalist is startled when Nemo tells him not about one life, but of three lives in three different universes as “Mr. Nobody.”

A boy stands on the platform at a railroad station. He must face a choice: board the train to be with his fleeing mother (Natasha Little) or stay behind with his morose father (Rhys Ifans). He makes his choice in that world but this choice is just one of many as Nemo journeys between parallel universes. His stories are told through flash backs from the mind of the last mortal man on Earth.

Writer-director Jacob Van Dormael makes his first feature film since 1996 and I think he spent much of that time crafting an elegant tale about time travel and interspatial hopping. We are presented with the lives of Nemo as he moves between space and time. Amazingly, Van Dormael keeps his eye on the ball and weaves his intricate stories into a fine tapestry. What could have been a confused jumble – like last year’s bloated financial disaster “Cloud Atlas” - is anything but in “Mr. Nobody.” His story is evenly told and its jumps in time and space introduce his lives and wives with exceptional clarity and evenness. Not once did the filmmaker leave me in confusion.

The cast, led by Jared Leto, includes Sarah Polley, Diane Kruger and Linh Dan Pham as Nemo’s significant others on three different worlds. But, it is the several incarnations of Nemo at the various times in his life – ages 9, 16, 34 and 118 – that are the most captivating to watch. Jared Leto plays 34 and 118 year old Nemo and gives another stellar performance – see Leto’s other starring turn in “Dallas Buyers Club. The youngsters playing nine-year old (Thomas Byrne) and 15-year old (Toby Regbo) Nemo are terrific as their early years play out – discovering girls, falling in love and growing up times three.

The terrific story and fine acting are also joined on many other technical levels. Editing is seamless despite the multi-universe jumps in time. Camera work is also first-rate as is costume makeup and production design. “Mr. Nobody” is a film that deserves to be seen. I hope it is. I give it a B+.

Why oh why was Jace von Dormal's "Mr. Nobody" not released in 2009, the year it was made, only to appear in 2013 in limited theatrical release and VOD?  This is a stunning tale that presents complex concepts simplistically with a filmmaking style that is anything but.  In this cosmic, multi-dimensional, romantic take on "Little Big Man" (the film also resembles "Inception," Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," "Dark City" and even one scene from Leos Carax's "Pola X"), Jared Leto gives an exceptional performance as a man whose life spins out dependent upon his different choices, leading him to conclude that not making a choice leaves more possibilities.

Nemo (Leto) is the last living mortal in 2092 and in recalling his past to a reporter (Daniel Mays), he skips through parallel lives and time periods, occasionally stopping to deliver a scientific lecture or guide us through surreal landscape which visualize these ideas.  His three marriages couldn't be more different - Sarah Polley turns out to be mentally unstable, requiring care; Diane Kruger is his true, albeit somewhat incestuous, love while "Indochine's" Linh Dan Pham is the woman he makes a bet on (to marry the next girl he dances with) but never really loves.

Von Dormal's ("The Eighth Day") visual style is incredibly inventive, using black and white, backwards motion, slo motion and special effects to provoke different emotional reactions. His editors (Atom Egoyan regular Susan Shipton and "Win Win's" Matyas Veress) employ all kinds of tricks, like a still becoming a postcard on a table, crafting an impressive flow between scenes which often couldn't be more different.  The movie never drags despite its 141 minute running time. The film's complementary soundtrack includes such artists as The Pixies and Eurythmics.

"Mr. Nobody" is ambitious as all get out and a wonder from start to finish.

(Laura rated "Mr. Nobody" a B+ on Reeling, but on second consideration raises it to an A-.)
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