Watching Mr. Nobody I was assaulted by more feelings than I’m used to when watching a movie. In that department I can only compare it with Synecdoche, New York. I was in awe of parts of it, I became emotional in more scenes than my misguided manly self-image could take; I was surprised and confused; I felt both cheated and rewarded and I told myself, at least once out-loud “Oh, bulshit!”.
If you were one of the people who classified Inception as intelligent and complex prepare for getting your brain folded into a knot worthy of honors in Camp Ivanhoe. Jared Leto plays Nemo Nobody in four different dimensions/timelines. It’s hard to know which. Early in the story he has to decide whether he wants to stay with his father or leave with his mother for New York. This shattering moment splits the story in three. In one he goes with his mother and pursues love with one girl, in another he stays and the target for his affection is another, in another he is rejected by said girl and goes for girl C.
He becomes a different person in all of them and those stories ramify even further, with different pathways emerging and vanishing.
The fourth dimension is the old Nemo. 118 years old. Still played by Jared Leto. If it was the decision of the actor to play this character, someone should have vetoed it. He looks exactly like young Benjamin Button or old Robin Williams in a movie he played a robot with a heart. Most 70/80 year old actors with some make-up would do a better job. Back to the story. Old Nemo is the last of mortal humans. Everyone else seems to be getting their organs renewed from personal pet pigs. He lives in a cartoonish society that contrasts with the ones from his past, and dampens their sentiment by comparison. He is the trigger to the other three stories. Either talking to a psychiatrist covered with Maori tattoos on his face and skull or with a rogue journalist who escapes security to get a good story, he recollects contradictory stories of his past.
It’s a cheap trick. An old men telling his tales from his death-bed or death-chair. A shaman making us wiser with advice better kept on Chinese cookie dough. Deleting this character could only improve the movie. Jaco Van Dormael (writer/director) must have felt that everything had to connect and that was one of his errors.
A leaf is both the beginning of a love story and the cause of a terrible accident. It’s a great connection that rewards the viewer. I felt smart and I suppose if you watched it, you did too. That leaf comes back as a symbol two or three more times and there’s no more reward. The magician should know when to leave the stage and Dormael overstayed his welcome in too many occasions. Everything seems to have to be connected but it doesn’t. This compulsiveness detracts from the beauty of the story by making it arithmetical.
He introduces the concept of Butterfly Effect, the idea of the Big Shrunk (idea that time will stop and start reversing), Eternalism (idea that all points in time are equally real, that reminded me of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5) and others that take too much time to explain. Nemo is made the host of a science program to shove some more information into the equation. Equation, that’s what part of the movie seems. Everything must fit, otherwise this metaphor of a simile won’t work as an analogy. Or something like that.
But then a scene comes and hits me in the gut. In spite of the overwrought set-up that makes me go “Oh, bulshit!” the movie still touches all my chords. Maybe my personal experiences make me a sucker for some of this scenes or maybe Mr. Nobody is the filmic equivalent of a competent hack psychic. They say relatively generic things that are relatable to everyone. No matter how skeptical you are, the skepticism stays at the door.
It’s hard to make someone feel such strong emotions without a proper set-up which makes me wonder how greater this movie could have been if the director had some more films under his belt and his delusions of grandeur were kept in check.
I’m not the messiah, but you can follow me: