Sometimes films take a unsteady road to finding its way into theaters. Most of the time, this is largely due to a movie being bad. Recently delayed films like Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunter and G.I. Joe: Retaliation were awful, and the studio’s attempts to try to salvage the quality of both films did not pan out. Other films are just a product of not finishing on time. Oscar contenders Wolf of Wall Street and Foxcatcher were pushed back due to the incapacity to edit the films for their respective release dates. Mr. Nobody had perhaps the most odd journey to theaters of all.
Mr. Nobody actually premiered at the Venice International Film Festival all the way back in 2009. After its run in the festival circuit, the film later was released back into theaters in 2010, in most European countries. The film, despite its big ambition, was overall not a hit, and it seemed like that would be the end of this film’s run in theaters. Somehow, three years later, the small studio Magnet Releases has picked up the film and released it in the U.S. While this decision seems odd, it’s giving audiences a chance to check out a really good flick.
Mr. Nobody follows Nemo Nobody, a man who is the last mortal man, living for 118 years. Nearing his death, Nemo tries to recall his life through three different points, his parents separation, falling in love, and adulthood, and what really occurred in his life.
Ambition is an aspect that is always admirable, especially when a film actually follows through with its ambition. Director and writer Jaco Van Dormael has been known for doing ambitious projects, but this is by far his biggest yet. It’s always great to see a film just go for it in any way, when so many films these days just go for the bare minimum to please audiences.
Perhaps the hardest part of executing an ambitious arc is the writing. Luckily, Van Dormael does a great job here creating a great narrative. Due to the condition of the story, this movie wanders in and out of different arcs. Some movies really struggle with managing that, but this movie nails it. The narrative has a real flow to it, and is able to be comprehensible throughout.
Jared Leto this year is getting a great deal of buzz for his performance in Dallas Buyers Club, but I’d say that he does an even better job with his performance here. Leto has to have a great deal of versatility here with all the different emotions he shows, from playing both Nemo as an adult, and in his 118 year old form. What makes it even better is that Leto does so with a great deal of subtlety, showing powerful emotion just through a gesture.
Supporting him are many great actors and actresses. Sarah Polley gives perhaps the most showy performance of the film, playing one of his wives who is manically depressed, and is so engrossing to watch. Diane Kruger on the other hand has a character that is much more subtle like Leto, and does an equally good job. Other talents like Rhys Ifans, Toby Regbo, and Juno Temple also do a great job in their respective roles.
Van Dormael’s direction is fantastic. Mr. Nobody is modestly budgeted at around 33 million dollars, but every cent of that movie is shown. The stylistic touches Van Dormael uses are great, showing some of the major themes of the film in both a subtle and bold way. Even with some big visuals like showing childbirth, there are a fair share of subtle changes, like changing the color pallet for each arc, creating a good combination of bold and subtle visuals .With this mix of style, Van Dormael creates a universe of its own, that has its own dynamic traits and personality to it.
The themes of Mr. Nobody are not anything too new, but they are told in a very unique way. The film’s main theme is choice, and how our choices can change our lives in different ways. Mr. Nobody also deals with concepts like the butterfly effect, string theory, and chaos theory, which are interesting theories for sure. This is where some of the problems begin to arise in the film, though.
Mr. Nobody’s main flaw is that it feels like it’s too compacted, or has too much going on. From all the different themes and ideas this film’s narrative brings up, its impossible to really juggle them all. It leads to some of the theories in the film being very messy, which is a shame compared to some of the other concepts that are just so well fleshed out.
Mr. Nobody clocks in at two and a half hours long, which is tough to pull off for any film. Some films are able to manage making their long running time feel not as long, while some feel their respective length. This film feels lengthy at points, especially towards the third act, and begins to get long-winded. This is one of the hardest aspects of making such an ambitious story, and while it does not succeed, I can’t dock too many points from the film for it.
Mr. Nobody is about the journey, and what a journey it is. Even with the film faltering at points due to its ambition, it’s one of the more engrossing and out-of-the-box science fiction films of recent memory. If you have the time for it and are in the right mood, lose yourself in this flick.
Do a Shot: for each big style moment.
Take a Drink: during each trippy scene in the future.
Take a Drink: for each time they play Mr.Sandman.