Mr Nobody is the last mortal on Earth. It is some year around 2100 and he is 118 years old, but he is the last person still alive who hasn’t been treated genetically to live indefinitely, so he will die soon. This is immensely fascinating to the rest of humanity and his daily life has become a television show where the whole world waits for him to pass away. But there is a mystery: nobody has any records of Mr Nobody. Nobody knows who he is, and he himself doesn’t know either. He thinks he is in his 30s, and from a different place perhaps. He keeps jumping back and forth.
Mr. Nobody is a very ambitious European SF movie. It is huge, a seven course meal, filled with a nice cast of American actors to generate visibility, particularly Jared Leto. That didn’t really work because the film flew squarely under the radar, but over the years it received a steady stream of appreciation.
The beginning of the movie is very confusing, but also intriguing. Jared Leto plays a man who seems to be unstuck in time. He moves from one time period to another, each time inhabiting a different life, a different person perhaps. And it is all quite confusing to him as well. He dies, wakes up as another person with another family at some random moment, perhaps dies again or remembers that his family had different names, and he shifts again to another time and place. This is quite a curveball. Which existence is the right one? Did he do anything to deserve this?
The movie is visually amazing. There is a great sequence of Mr Nobody growing up, starting from the point before he was born, and it’s filled with quirky humor, colorful settings and funny music. From the very start, it’s clear that our Mr Nobody was “unformed” in some way. Angels in pre-birth Eden touched everyone but him, and while growing up he keeps wondering who he is. I love this movie for how playful and inventive it is. And it is not just resting on interesting visuals, it is well edited with nice camerawork to keep us invested.
The future world of 2100 is very silly. Think Hunger Games Capital silly with strange fashion and tattooed faces. A strange sexless world that doesn’t really come across as well thought-out in the script. It is best not to take it too seriously, because the whole premise of the movie is surrealistic. The film has a strange balance between style and substance. There is a lot of substance because of the elaborate plot, but each separate scene is mostly style, and not so much depth. To put it another way: a lot happens, but I’m not so sure how much it means. There are some scenes when Leto explains things like a professor, but they don’t work well. They stand next to the movie instead of being a part of it, and it yanks you out of the story.
You know what? This is actually a great movie. It makes you think about the twists and turns of your own life, and about how little events or split-second decisions can make your life run down a different track. It’s touching. Reminded me a lot of The Butterfly Effect (2004). That movie is even mentioned (well, just the expression, but I think it was a deliberate referral). Also, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), Inception (2010), Looper (2012), Cloud Atlas (2012) and Predestination (2014). My kind of film, baby! The film seems to borrow from all of them. Here too, we mess around with time and memory and Nobody jumps between different alternative versions of his life. As the movie progresses, the confusion lessens and we start to get what the movie is saying. What if you could live through all the alternative lives you could have had?
A lot of thought and effort has gone into this movie. There are so many little storylines and interesting locations and nicely composed shots. There are little jumps in time, back and forth, that play with your expectations. It is like a broken mirror that is put back together, but the fragments are from three different images mixed together. It’s consistently entertaining and intriguing.
That said, it is a long sit. It suffered from too much… muchness. It is overly elaborate in its storytelling and could have used some trimming. And after an hour you keep watching not so much for the story, but for the nice visuals and touching little moments. So, it is not perfect, but it is one of those flaws that make the movie a bit endearing. It’s a lovely imperfect movie.