Monday, August 2, 2010

Review: Mr. Nobody is a Riveting Portrait of a Man's Lives


Directed by Jaco Van Dormael
Starring Jared Leto, Diane Kruger, Sarah Polley, Linh Dan Pham
Written by Jaco Van Dormael
138 Minutes
Unrated, but it would be R for Nudity, Sexuality, Disturbing Images, and Language (I think)
Plot: As he lives the last days of his life, Nemo Nobody recounts the three possible paths that he could have taken, each for a different woman. 

Note: The above poster is in French, but Mr. Nobody is in English.

Its hard to say what Mr. Nobody is about, exactly. Director Jaco Van Dormael guides us through questions dealing with possible lives of Nemo Nobody, love, the universe, human nature, life, and why things end up the way they do. Sounds like a pretty heavy movie, doesn't it? For the most part it is, but being heavy can't keep Mr. Nobody from soaring.

Of all the ideas presented in Mr. Nobody, the most interesting, and important, is that life is presented as a choice, not something dictated by fate. We are taken though Nemo Nobody's life in such a way that many things are possible. As a result, a nonlinear narrative structure takes hold as we watch Nemo fall in love with different women on his multiple paths through time. While confusing at first, the way in which Nemo's life is told is a cool idea- why should things be in an “order” when there really isn't one? The format also pulls us into the story quickly. “Why is this happening?” and “What happens next?” are questions that have a stronger meaning when watching Mr. Nobody. And many of the things that happen to Nemo are wholly unpredictable. Even with a boxed story structure, you never really know what is going to happen next. Unlike many popular movies today, Mr. Nobody is original and entertaining at that.

Although a great way to tell an already great story is present, the characters within it suffer. Only one character other than Nemo, who's only a bit more interesting than normal, deserves much attention. It is fascinating to see the same character go through traumas of all sorts, but a more complex cast of characters would have yielded more developed and intricate views of human nature to detail. But still, the meaning behind Mr. Nobody is enough to keep things going. For instance: though Nemo's monetary status or life experiences may be different, a few of his core traits are the same. We are shown human nature in the sense that one's subconscious person is predetermined, but the order or way in which we do things is something of our own decision.

Jared Leto and Diane Kruger pose for one of the many symmetrical shots in Mr. Nobody

Love, a great propellant in Mr. Nobody, is addressed in a way that is no stranger to most viewers. However, the methods in which it is communicated by Jaco Van Dormael are beautiful. Highly symmetrical shots dot the love splattered landscape of Nemo's life, as do similar cuts. We are then lead to believe that one woman, who is the one who most often populates these shots, is the one for Nemo. And is Nemo for her. Jaco Van Dormael does his best with his intimate shots showing Nemo and whatever woman he is with at the time. The best of these are underneath a cave of sheets when a couple is spending time together. However, due to the non linear storytelling, some scenes, most of them romantic, get repeated for emphasis. By the end a few of these get stale- once or twice is usually enough.

Despite having somewhat shallow subjects to work from, several of the actors and actresses in Mr. Nobody do terrific work. Jared Leto is the star, as Nemo, taking on what is essentially a handful of characters to emulate. He shifts between caring and torn as if it is quite a natural move. Leto gives a very convincing portrayal of a man caught between worlds. He seems to easily pulls off the hurt mannerisms of childhood trauma with slight looks and meaningful glances. Toby Regbo, who plays the teen Nemo, does just as well. He too must achieve the same hopscotching act, but with a teenager's angst, energy, and love. Sarah Polley, as Elise, is stellar. Her deeply depressed methods of moving are only tidbits of what eventually become actions much more hard to watch. Its like she has a form of charisma that forces both attraction and a strange sense of alienation.

Mr. Nobody is at heart a life tale told in a Science Fiction setting. For fans of the genre, Nemo's life is a treat. Mentions of string theory, stem cells, and a future on Mars are just a few good sci-fi elements. The notion of time travel is brought up as well. Along with these tidbits are CGI special effects, which for the most part are sub par. This issue doesn't make much of an effect, however to those used to the likes of Michael Bay: you're in for a bit of an eye sore. But otherwise, Mr. Nobody is a great film. And by the end, we know that Nemo is definitely more than a nobody.


Midnight Showing
Superb. Something that belongs in the Best Picture category.

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