Mr. Nobody

Film Reviews

Ghoshen reviews a film by Jaco van Dormael, starring Jared Leto, Sarah Polley, Diane Kruger.

Mr Nobody coverMr. Nobody is a film that was released in 2009 but which came only recently to my attention. Grounded in a future time when man has attained quasi-immortality (which means that people no longer die of old age but can still die of other causes), it tells the life story of a 118-year-old man named Nemo Nobody who is the last mortal being. This story plays out as a series of non-chronological flashbacks as Nemo is interviewed on his deathbed and his memories broadcast to a worldwide audience fascinated by his passing.

The extraordinary thing about Nemo is neither his mortality nor his name but the fact that he lives a multi-threaded life – or at least appears to. At three critical junctures in his life, when compelled to make near-impossible choices, he manages to take all the available options and branch into several distinct parallel lives. The first occasion happens when, at age nine, his parents separate and he is torn in choosing whether to stay with his mother or his father. The same happens again when, later in life, he marries all three of his childhood sweethearts. The result is a rich movie, superficially a sci-fi work with some powerful surrealistic scenes, deeper down a biography and a moving love story, and deeper still a peek into a different reality where certain rules of our universe fall apart. That is where the spiritual aspect of it comes in; like Holy Motors which I reviewed before, it rips one’s mind out of the straitjacket of ordinary, linear reality that we take so much for granted. And does this very effectively while telling an engaging if slightly opaque story with some dazzling cinematography.

The most fundamental thing we do in life besides witnessing is to make choices. We may try to embrace the Tantric dictum of living with choiceless awareness but, surely, choices are inescapable. And, thanks to the butterfly effect, even the seemingly most insignificant choice can have as profound effects on the course of our lives as those choices that we agonize over. Some other movies have postulated worlds where one could go back in time and change certain critical decisions. Mr. Nobody suggests a world with an extra dimension that allows one to have a limited experience of the many-worlds hypothesis (which conjectures that at every point of choice, the universe splits into multiple universes, one for every possible outcome).

The acting is excellent across the board but especially from Jared Leto who plays Nemo from young adulthood to very old age and Diane Kruger who plays one of his wives. It was directed by Jaco Van Dormael, a Belgian best known for Toto the Hero, and it won several European awards. I watched Mr. Nobody with a couple of people who claim it as their favourite movie of all time; I cannot go that far but I do consider it a treasure.

Review by Ghoshen, Osho News

Watch official trailer on YouTube

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