A recollection of life or, in this case, lives.

by Ruby Yang

Life is full of choices. You choose A over B and then move on with life. But let’s face it. There’s always that one choice we didn’t make that leave us wondering, what if? Would my life still be the same? This is the premise of the 2009 film Mr.Nobody. The movie centers around Nemo Nobody (Jared Leto) who, as earth’s last mortal, has just turned 118 years old. As a result, Nemo has become a human spectacle. A pseudo-celebrity. People want to know more about him, especially given the fact that there are no records indicating he ever existed in the first place. Who is he? Where is he from? And so begins Nemo Nobody’s recollection of his life.

Mr. Nobody
Written & Directed by
Jared Leto, Diane Kruger, Sarah Polley
Jaco Van Dormael
Release Date
25 June 2011
Ruby’s Grade: B

The twist however, is that Nemo recounts three different lives, where each life is the result of the choices he makes as a child. Think of it as a mix between science fiction, drama, and Robert Frost’s “The Road not Taken.” I went into this movie knowing nothing about it aside from its title. Based off the poster—and the fact that it had been categorized as sci-fi— I assumed it was one of those futuristic space age movies.

While there are some scenes taking place in the future and in space, the majority of the movie actually takes place in the late 1980s and the early 2000s. In other words, don’t expect to see a film about some sort of experimental lab that allows people the power to live different lives. Instead the main focus is on Nemo’s romances throughout his different timelines, all which somehow leads to future Nemo who is retelling his life story. Which, of course, brings us back to the movie’s theme of choice and its subsequent results.

I’ll admit, I was at first a bit put off by the intertwining love stories, but as the movie progressed, and I got used to the movie’s non-linear format, I grew invested in each different timeline. While I knew it was still Nemo, I almost felt as if these were the stories of different characters.

I suppose that’s partly due to the cinematography, as each timeline is associated with its own style and color scheme. And as the movie seamlessly jumps from one timeline to the next, I found myself unconsciously labeling each Nemo as a different person in order to keep myself from getting confused. The movie, after all, is 2 hours long and it’s easy to lose patience half an hour into the movie, wondering what the heck Nemo’s lovers have to do with anything. Hint: pretty much everything and nothing at the same time. Confused? As frustrating as it sounds, I believe this is the film’s intention. We are not meant to understand everything right away. It is as if you are watching the events unfold in real time—that you are seeing the memories straight from Nemo’s mind as he is trying to piece everything together.

At the same time, as the viewer, we are trying to figure out which life is the real one. After all, how is it possible for a single man to have led three different lives at the same time? If you’re thinking that this movie sounds like a complicated mess, don’t let the non-linear format and altering timelines deter you from watching this movie.  From the cinematography to the music, the film is beautifully done and the storyline, while a bit hard to digest at first, is mesmerizing. The movie, with all its stories, takes you through the many outcomes of one man’s life—from the happy to the sad—and ultimately leaves you with a different outlook on life. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the film despite the fact it was nothing like I had imagined it would be. Instead, what I got was a film that was not only visually pleasing, but thought provoking as well. In short, if you’re looking for a mindless movie to put on, Mr.Nobody, probably isn’t the best choice. The film will seem to drag on and can be a bit boring due to its lack of action. But if you’re looking for a movie with a profound message that will leave you thinking, and you’ve got two hours to spare, you should definitely give Mr.Nobody a watch.