There’s something about Mr. Nobody, a film by Belgian filmmaker Jaco Van Dormael, that’s just so captivating. Even at its almost two hour and forty minute runtime, you can’t help becoming completely absorbed in the journey being taken, and all the possibilities that present themselves along the way.
The film tells the story of Nemo Nobody, and all the choices he’s made over his 118 year life, or lives to be more exact. How is that possible? Well that’s part of the brilliance of the story, which was also written by Van Dormael, as he points out at one point in the film through Nemo at age nine (played superbly by Andrew Byrne) who says, “You have to make the right choice. As long as you don’t choose, everything remains possible.”
It may be best to explain that in this visually stunning world created by Van Dormael, before they’re born, all children seem to exist in a mystical place, where they know everything that will happen to them throughout their lives, and the lives of those around them. In short, before we’re born, we know everything there is to possibly know. It isn’t until an angel of oblivion touches us under our noses, leaving a small indentation, that we lose all this knowledge, and are born into the world innocent, and carefree.
The problem, if you think of it as one, is that the angels accidentally skipped touching Nemo before his birth, and in doing so, allowed him to enter the world with the ability to see into the future. As he reaches his 118 birthday, in a future where an immortality of sorts has been found and he’s the last remaining mortal, Nemo begins to tell the stories of his lives, to both a psychiatrist and a young reporter. Jumping from ages nine, to 15 and 16, to 34 and back to 118, his stories intertwine, and contradict one another, and imply that when he reached a crossroads in life, he took both paths, and lived both lives, with the cycle continuing each time a major choice needed to be made.
This may sound as confusing as it does to the young journalist that’s interviewing him, but let me assure you that it’s expertly delivered, with various stories that are all so engrossing, you never find yourself wishing you were watching one and not the other. Everything is mesmerizing, and while you can tell that the film is long, you don’t feel as though it’s longer than it should be. It’s hard to look back and think of moments that could have been taken out to shorten things up, yet allowed the film to still present such an interesting story in the exact way it needed to be told.
Van Dormael gives Mr. Nobody such a great visual style, with everything meaning something, and nothing going to waste. His direction is flawlessly done, and it’s amazing the amount of detail he puts into the film. As he admits himself, not all the answers will be found in the film, but there’s so much to work with, that not only will it allow everyone to take what they wish from the story, but it also opens up the realm of repeat viewings in the hopes of seeing something you may have missed the first or second time that will allow you to strengthen your take on the film, or change it completely.
The acting must be mentioned, as it really is brilliant on all levels. Jared Leto leads the way as Nemo at age 34, and with lots of make-up, and great skill, Nemo at age 118. Leto has to hit many emotional levels throughout the film, depending on which life it is he’s living, but he’s not the only one. Every rendition of Nemo is a joy to watch on screen, from the emotional, hormonally charged Nemo at age 15-16 played by Toby Regbo, who lights up the screen, to that of Byrne and Nemo age nine. The young actor carries a lot of the foundation of the film on his back, and as it stands strong throughout, we see just how strong Byrne is in his role. All three give memorable performances, and deserve as much credit as anyone else for making this film as mesmerizing as it is.
The supporting cast is also incredibly strong and includes Diane Kruger, Sarah Polley, Rhys Ifans, Natasha Little, Juno Temple, Clare Stone, Audrey Giacomini, and Linh Dan Pham. Ifans and Little both do great work as Nemo’s parents, while the rest are a mix of Nemo’s love interests at ages 15 and then as adults, who also really bring their A-games.
Mr. Nobody isn’t a film that will appeal to everyone, as some will no doubt find it boring, too long, or just flat out confusing. I would heavily recommend at least giving the film a chance, as if it does hit you the way that it’s meant to, it really is an invigorating story to be a part of, and it’s one that may just open up your mind to the fact that everything is possible, and life really is your playground.
The audio is perfect, with dialogue coming through crisp and clear, and the great soundtrack coming through at just the right levels to make it stand out the way it should, yet not overwhelm the area you’re watching it in. The video quality is also all that you could ask for in a DVD release, and really shows vibrant colours, and darkened shades at exactly the right times, with no noticeable distractions throughout.
Making Of – This featurette, in my opinion, makes up for the lack of commentary. It runs at a hefty 47 minutes, and really touches on everything. Director Pierre Van Dormael gives his opinions on the film itself, the story, and the work that went into shooting it, along with various cast members giving their views on the film as well. It’s interesting, insightful, and gives that extra bit of information that some may be looking for after they watched the film. While nothing is outright answered here, Van Dormael does give his thoughts on why he chose to make the film the way he did, and in the end, it’s up to us what we want to take away from it.
Deleted Scenes – Three deleted scenes that didn’t seem to add too much to any story, and were just scenes that delved further down various paths.
Behind the Scenes – This featurette runs at 17 minutes, and shows various behind the scene takes from the film. Lots of interaction with Rhys Ifans, who shows the viewer around the backstage sets, and has some fun with them. There’s also a neat video of Jered Leto getting his make-up put on to make him Elderly Nemo, which is sped up to show very quickly, just how long it takes, and how much work goes into the make-up for this character. It’s a fun watch, though if you aren’t big on extras, and have to choose, definitely watch the “Making of” featurette, as that’s where the real information is to be found.
Mr. Nobody was one of those films that came completely out of left field, and really did what it set out to do, capturing my imagination right from the start. The runtime may be daunting to some, but if you’re able to get around that, prepare for a journey unlike any other you’ve been on before, filled with endless possibilities.
Philippe Godeau Presents Mr. Nobody. Directed by: Pierre Van Dormael. Starring: Jered Leto, Andrew Byrne, Toby Regbo, Diane Kruger, Sarah Polley. Running time: 157 minutes. Rating: PG. Released on DVD: Jan. 11, 2011.
Tags: Rhys Ifans