Mr. Nobody Review

The multiple lives and loves of 118-year-old Jared Leto – a complex SF piece from Toto the Hero helmer Jaco Van Dormael.

It’s the year 2092, a future where the human race has been telomerised and is effectively immortal. The oldest mortal is 118-year-old Nemo (Jared Leto in heavy makeup). Interviewed by a psychiatrist (Allan Corduner) and a young journalist (Daniel Mays), Nemo reflects on his long life, and his three great loves. But soon, discrepancies and contradictions appear in Nemo’s account and it’s soon not clear how much of it is true and how much of it is fiction…

Mr. Nobody isn’t amenable to ready synopsis: there’s a lot more to it that I will leave you to find out in its two and a half hours. But while it is certainly more science-fictional than films like Sliding Doors and Kieslowski’s Blind Chance, which are both more SF by stealth and use their alternate-worlds premises for romantic comedy and political allegory respectively, like them it comes down to a choice, whether or not to catch a train. Young Nemo has to choose whether to leave with his mother (Natasha Little) to Canada or stay with his father (Rhys Ifans) in England, and the film plays both outcomes, plus a few more besides. Especially towards the end, it moves into Charlie Kaufman headfuck territory, with some distinctly solipsistic turns to the storyline.

This isn’t really an actor’s piece, but Van Dormael has assembled a strong cast. As well as those I’ve already mentioned, there are Sarah Polley, Diana Kruger and Linh-Dan Pham as the three major loves in Nemo’s life (Elise, Anna and Jean respectively), plus Juno Temple as the younger Anna. Playing Nemo from adulthood to advanced old age, Jared Leto is bland for the most part, though his incarnation of a 118-year-old is certainly impressive.

Belgian director Jaco Van Dormael made an impression on arthouse audiences with his 1991 feature debut Toto the Hero. He followed that up five years later with The Eighth Day (which I haven’t seen) but astonishingly Mr . Nobody is his first feature since then, the IMDB listing only a short from 2006 in between. Filmed in English, Mr. Nobody is a very ambitious film, possibly too ambitious for its own good. It’s bursting with ideas, possibly too many to deal with even at this somewhat extended running time, and it certainly isn’t always easy to follow. I watched it twice before writing this review, and I certainly didn’t grasp all of it. But as a display of filmmaking technique, it’s often dazzling. If it often overreaches itself, it’s good to see a film that certainly tries as hard as this. It’s a pity that Optimum have seen fit to send it straight to DVD, instead of giving it a cinema release. Of such things as this cults are made.


Optimum’s release of Mr. Nobody comprises a single dual-layered disc encoded for Region 2 only. The affiliate links to the left apply to the DVD edition; for the Blu-ray’s links, go here.

The DVD transfer is in the ratio of 2.40:1 and is anamorphically enhanced. As you would expect from a very recent film (with no doubt a HD master, though this was a 35mm production) there’s nothing wrong with it, given that I haven’t seen the film projected. It’s colourful, sharp, with solid blacks. Shadow detail is fine.

Audio is a choice of two English-language tracks, in Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Surround (2.0). The 5.1 has to be the choice, with considerable use of directional effects, not to mention quite a lot of subwoofer activity, notably contributing to a couple of explosions. English subtitles are available from the main menu screen, but these are not of the hard-of-hearing variety: they are solely to translate the French-speaking interviewees in the making-of documentary.

That documentary runs 45:06, and it’s a solid run-through of the filmmaking process from original idea to completion. There are spoilers here, so this is best watched after seeing the film. On the other hand, Van Dormael does clarify a few things that are obscure in it, so the choice is yours. Most of the cast-members speak in English. Van Dormael and his principal crewmembers talk in French, with subtitles optionally available.

The only other extra is the theatrical trailer, which runs 1:54.


Updated: Nov 08, 2011

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