Mr. Nobody (2009)

9.33 Overall Score
Acting: 9/10
Directing: 9/10
Editing: 10/10

The editing, directing and the script.

The attempt at providing an explanation, and only because I really liked the vagueness of the whole film.

Mr. Nobody

Dir: Jaco Van Dormael

Jared Leto, Sarah Polley, Diane Kruger, Linh Dan Pham, Rhys Ifans


In the year 2092 humans no longer die of old age.  The last mortal on Earth, 118 year old Nemo Nobody (Leto), recounts his life and all the directions it might have gone in.  Does he end up with the girl he loves, or the one he could simply settle for?  Mr. Nobody creates this web of possibilities and simultaneously presents them, creating a confusing portrait of a man whose past is never really known for certain.

There is one thing that is certain in this Sci-fi/ Romance film, and that is that our narrator Nemo is an untrustworthy one.  This is not in any malicious manner, but simply because he is old and does not remember much about his own life.  During the course of an interview he recounts the lives he possibly had with three different women, all based on his decision to live with his father or move away with his mother.  The narrative sets up these parallel dimensions of Nemo’s life and often intersects them to add to the confusion, and at times the characters have accents that come and go.  The 118 year old Nemo speaks with a slight southern accent, while younger versions fluctuate between an American and British accent.  But all of this is ok, because what is in fact the truth?  How much trust can you put in the memory of 118 year old man?  At one point his interviewer stops him and asks “How can you have children, and never have had them at the same time?”  But this is what this film is about, the decisions and outcomes that a person makes in their lives… an exploration of the possible, and not necessarily the truth.

Now as confusing as this might sound, it is far from it.  Jaco Van Dormael (The Eighth Day 1996, Toto the Hero 1991) does an excellent job at structuring this film.  The confusion lasts very briefly at the beginning until the intricacies of the narrative start coming together.  I was originally bothered by the shift in accents, but once the reasoning behind it hit me, I accepted it for its given purpose.  The editing was something that really stood out for me in the film.  There are some really great uses of transitions and cross-cutting to blend the different dimensions seamlessly, giving the film a flow that made it easy to follow.  The performances were all really good and believable, and I was particularly found of the 15 year old Nemo played by Toby Regbo, who played the ill-adjusted teen very well, with little differences here and there between dimensional versions.

The only problem I had with the film was the ending, and not because it was bad but because it attempts to give an explanation of the film.  It wasn’t necessary because the vaugeness works to the point that I didn’t want there to be an explanation.  But luckily even then the film remains vague within the finale about which perspective is real and which isn’t.  To loosely quote Nemo, “If you don’t make a decision, the possibilities are endless.”

With a running time of 141 minutes it can seem like a very daunting film to watch, but it never is. There is something interesting always happening on screen and from start to finish you will want to know what happens next.


Author: Dan Folgar View all posts by
Dan Folgar received a degree in Cinema Studies from the University of Central Florida in 2008, and is currently working on an MFA in Fine Arts. He is an avid film watcher and an enthusiast who is prone to ranting. Follow on twitter @grim842.

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