Every once and a while a film will come along that I believe should be considered an instant classic, Mr. Nobody is one such film I had the recent pleasure of watching.
The film was written and directed by Jaco Van Dormael, a Belgium director who is also known for The Eighth Day, and Toto the Hero both of which are in French. As far as I know Mr. Nobody is Mr. Dermael’s only english speaking film, which is a plus because there is so much content in the film that subtitles would ruin the impact of the story line.
A bulk of the film takes place 78 years in the future, in 2092. Our protagonist, Nemo, is the last living mortal in a world of immortals. Science has advanced so far that human cells can now regenerate an infinite number of times. The problem with Nemo, is that there is no record of him ever existing. Everything we see in the film is a flashback to Nemo’s childhood as Nemo attempts to recollect everything that ever happened to him. This is where the film gets tricky because Nemo is recollecting multiple events in his life that are contradictory of each other. Do not expect a linear film.
Nemo is played by Jared Leto the recent Academy Award winner for Best Supporting Actor. This film also features performances by Diane Kruger, Juno Temple, and Rhys Ifans. Amongst the entire cast, there is not a single weak link. This movie was released in 2009, and since then most of the actors and actresses have taken roles in larger blockbuster films.
The film itself feels distinctly french the way it uses love as a motivation for our protagonist. An absence of love in Nemo’s childhood triggers an event that causes the rest of the events of the movie to unfold. Every significant event in Nemo’s life stems from that event in Nemo’s childhood. One of the identifiable characteristics of Nemo is the dichotomy of love and hate/anger in his life. Nemo wants to love. We see him love his children, and his wife, and his friend, and himself. But we also see the thorn from his childhood cause him to lash out in anger towards his mother and his father.
The emphasis of this film is not love, its choice. Very early on in his childhood, Nemo recognizes the importance of choices. He understands that any choice he makes could impact the rest of his life. The main choice that this entire movie focuses on is the event from Nemo’s childhood. Nemo is forced to choose between his mother and father, and the shape his life takes after that branches from that decision. The guiding question asked in this film is “what if…” What if Nemo goes with his dad? What if Nemo goes with his mom? Each of these questions is answered and multiplied with each decision Nemo makes.
The idea of choice is one philosophically appealing to everyone who has lived through high school. We all ask the “What if…” question at some point in our lives as we fantasize about the things that could have been. Sometimes our lives might be better, and sometimes they might be worse. Ultimately, the idea of choice falls on free will. Are we free or are we destined for whatever fate has dealt us? I believe that this film takes a definitive stand on the issue, but I will let you watch the film in order to discover it.
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