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Review: Messy & Muddled Sci-Fi Romance 'Mr. Nobody' Starring Jared Leto

by Kevin Jagernauth
September 27, 2013 3:16 PM
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Mr. Nobody

We're sure when writer/director Jaco Van Dormael first came up with the premise for "Mr. Nobody," his first film since 1996's "The Eighth Day," it seemed like a fresh and original idea. Certainly we were intrigued back in 2009 by the time-spanning tale about a man who wakes up in the year 2092 to find himself 120 years old, the oldest man in the world and the last mortal in a world where nobody dies. But, unfortunately, a number of other films have come along in the interim of the long-delayed film—"The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button," "The Fountain," "Inception,""Cloud Atlas"—that have also flirted with the territory of time, memory, fate, destiny, and love. To be certain, even if those films never existed, it wouldn't make the achingly juvenile "Mr. Nobody" any better, but the fact that they do only makes the flaws in Dormael's film stand out even more.

It's hard to know where to begin addressing the myriad problems with "Mr. Nobody," but the setting seems like a good place to start considering that, ultimately, it has absolutely no bearing on the story. In short, there is no reason for this film to take place in 2092. Aside from allowing Dormael to play around with CGI and create a futuristic vision that seems lifted (with a smaller budget) straight from "The Fifth Element," there is actually no plot-driven basis for the film to be set in 2092 other than to give Nemo/Mr. Nobody (Jared Leto) a place to die and tell his story. In fact, the film doesn't even reveal why people are suddenly blessed with immortality, why Nemo is excluded from being able to take part in this wonderful scientific breakthrough, or how he's been able to live so long. This is just the first of many major story situations where Dormael takes the audience's trust for granted.

Mr. Nobody

But, onwards, the story finally begins—after a muddled opening twenty minutes—when a reporter breaks into the hospital room where Nemo is staying in the future and asks him to talk about his life for posterity. Again, no reason is given why Nemo is being kept away from reporters other than it appears that he's having trouble with his memory. As he recounts his story (which basically puts the rest of the film into a flashback), three separate versions of Nemo's life emerge. Like the last season of "Lost," which dealt in parallel timelines, the same applies here, only Nemo's memory is also remembering those of his parallel lives; those started and lived by another version of himself, had he made or not made certain decisions at key points in his life. Again, the internal logic is never elaborated, just presented for the audience to accept, but without a structural basis to make it stick. There is no explanation why Nemo can do this and why no one else can, it just is.

Nemo's life appears to have been marked by two things: his parents' (Rhys Ifans and Natasha Little) divorce and being the object of affection of girls in his elementary school days. CUE BUTTERFLY EFFECT. For (again) unexplored reasons, this is the turning point of his life and his parallel lives seem to diverge from here as we get plot threads for what would happen if he had chosen each girl. The rest of the film recounts these relationships in what is supposed be something dramatic and romantic (we suppose), but each life is so pathetic, so bereft of joy and riddled with discord, it's no small wonder that Nemo didn't just off himself.

Mr. Nobody

The first relationship with Jean (Linh-Dan Pham) is so briefly touched upon that it's hardly worth addressing, but in this version of his life, he is extremely wealthy and unhappy because he keeps confusing dreams and memories from his other parallel lives and he thinks he is not leading the life he should. Next is Anna (Juno Temple as the younger version, Diane Kruger as the older). In this alternate reality, following his parent's divorce, he goes to live with his mother who soon takes up with another man who has a daughter Nemo's age. They fall in love, leading to an illicit affair behind their parent's back, but are tragically ripped apart when things don't work out between the adults. They run into each other later in life, even make plans to get together, but Nemo loses adult Anna's number when a random event from halfway around the world causes a rainstorm to start where he is and a single raindrop falls and smudges the ink on the phone number he's holding. No, we're not kidding. Finally, there's Elise (Sarah Polley), a nearly suicidal depressive who is bedridden and crying when she's not berating Nemo or scaring the bejeesus out of their kids with her wildly unpredictable behavior.

In setting up these ridiculous, overblown and tragic lives for Nemo, Dormael seems to have forgotten writing in the redemption he was looking for. The question of which one is real and which isn't doesn't really matter, but you also don't want to find out because what Nemo goes through in one lifetime we wouldn't wish on our worst enemy. Not only is Nemo the last mortal on Earth, he also seems to be the unluckiest person who ever lived, earning three sad sack alternate realities. We're not even going to get into the storyline that has Nemo's father turn into a cripple after his divorce, unable to wash or feed himself, or the ridiculous tangent about angels.

Mr Nobody

It also doesn't help Dormael's film that his female characters are either slavishly and blandly loyal (Jean), unattainable sexpots (Anna) or depressive and shrill (Elise). It seems the worst thing Nemo did in his life was have terrible taste in women. These are not so much characters that interact with Nemo as obstacles he has to overcome. Even though Polley is listed as the co-star, she's in the film for maybe twenty minutes at most, most of which she is deep in the throes of a depression. Temple does the best she can with a role that requires her to do little more than act like a horny teenager while Pham seems to be mostly cut out of the film (indeed, there is a strong sense that a lot has been excised from the movie).

While this writer is not fond of walking out on movies, and didn't with "Mr. Nobody," the warning signs were there. And they arrived loud and clear when Nemo gave the first of four lectures on physics and string theory directly to the camera during the Anna storyline (it appears he's some kind of science show TV host, but again, that's left unexplained as well). We had to stifle our laughter, but when Leto started in on the possibilities of time and space, we were ready to bolt and in retrospect, we really should have. "Mr. Nobody" simply fails to reward your patience and engage your intellect, despite straining very hard to do so. Both overblown and half-baked, too long and not edited enough, "Mr. Nobody" describes exactly the kind of audience it will likely get. [D]

"Mr. Nobody" is now available on VOD and opens in limited release on November 7th. This is an edited reprint of our review from the Canadian release of the film in 2010.

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  • Nick | August 27, 2014 11:30 PMReply

    This review was terrible. It was filled was spite and rage filled hormones. You are an insanely stupid woman. You clearly have not understood much about the movie if the things you complain about are the feeble roles of side characters whose total on air time is less then 10 minutes each. Your writing is rash, your knowledge limited and your ignorance befitting. You, are garbege. Total, and utter garbege. The movie was by all means an excellent movie, it's alluring confusion is effective at rendering it's viewers to ponder it. And a final note.

    I came here to further my understanding about the movies ending, not read some garbled rubbish writing. I hope you choke on the sadness which you expunge.

  • Adriano | August 13, 2014 5:43 AMReply

    Man, I came to this review, like many other reviews, just after watching the movie. You, clearly, didn't catch up with the movie, what seems to me as a signal the you are more able to review tv shows like Teletubbies or Hanna Montana. Go find yourself another job.

  • cowboy | July 21, 2014 12:33 AMReply

    Your review only shows one thing. Your are incapable of grasping an intellectual plot. Mr. Nobody was philosophical like that of Plato's republic. It's the idea that nothing really exists and everything exists. Life is what we make it and/or life's plan is already set in motion and we have no say so in its direction. God is a child with a magnifying glass and we are the ants.

  • JJ | July 19, 2014 7:16 AMReply

    Changed or just truly made me feel life as it is those who read the commebts and feel that thia movie was indeed very touching theb i congratulate you because we are not the ignorant type of people who like moviea where brain usage ia not necessary , even our own feelings , very good movie made me write a poem about life , truly touching loved it , i would like to see more movies like this if any suggestion please reply

  • James | July 18, 2014 12:08 AMReply

    Sorry, I've got to agree with the author on this one. In fact, after watching this movie on netflix, I immediately had to google "Mr. Nobody Sucks" just to know there was someone else out there that thought this movie tackled something much heavier then it was able to deliver.

    It left me saying, "What the hell?"

  • Joe | July 5, 2014 4:23 PMReply

    How is it possible that someone pays you to do movie reviews and you dont even understand what you are watching. Your summary in the first paragraph was enough to show that you completely misunderstood the movie, for starters this DID NOT take place in 2092, that was merely one of the possible out comes.

    I would go on, but a quick scroll through the comments shows everyone else feels the same way i do and there is no point beating a dead horse.

  • David | July 2, 2014 10:01 PMReply

    This has to be one of the most one dimensional reviews I've read. All you do is point out minor holes in the plot, most of which were just the result of you not paying attention, and were explained in the movie. You also did not seem to understand that the point of this movie was not just to offer a coherent story, but was philosophical and artistic. You complain that it doesn't really matter what he chooses BUT THAT'S THE POINT! Old Nemo explains this at the end. There are no right or wrong choices, just living with the choice you make is the interesting part.

  • Meyer | July 1, 2014 2:50 AMReply

    You must be used to criticise movies like spider-man, captain america, transformers and etc.. In this kind of movies you don't need to think much, but Mr. Nobody is a different kind of movie my friend, you have to pay attention, and exercise your brain a bit, it's one of the best movies I've ever seen, I watched it two times and I still think that there are somethings that I didn't understand well. This review is so horrible, seems like while the reviewer was watching the movie he was texting with his friends on whatsapp.

  • Batman | June 16, 2014 5:32 PMReply

    What a stupid article. Did you even pay attention to this movie, Kevin?

  • Jameson | June 4, 2014 4:06 PMReply

    The reviewer obviously did not care to understand this movie. This movie is not for someone who wishes to have everything laid out and their hand held the entire time. This is not batman, transformers, or any other popcorn flick. To understand this film requires a viewer willing to exercise their brain a bit. This is a great movie but will require you to think some

  • Cameron | May 31, 2014 12:21 PMReply

    This is another movie where your understanding and enjoyment thereof are directly correlated to your own intellect. The comments that people make about this film greatly remind me of the largely negative comments directed at the film "Primer".

    Sadly, it seems that Kevin is not even close to being intelligent enough to appreciate this movie for the masterpiece that it is. My guess is that something along the lines of Mission Impossible would be more his thing.

    I have a genius level IQ (not bragging, it's not something to brag about.. in the world/society we live in this is more of a curse than something to be happy about), and I thought this was one of the greatest movies I have ever seen. It is 2.5 hours long and I was enthralled the entire way through. I immediately watched it again after it finished.

  • jason | May 25, 2014 1:41 PMReply

    You would think that a writer/movie critic would have a creative enough mind to understand the meaning conveyed in this movie. Apparently not.

  • Familiar Thoughts | May 25, 2014 7:26 AMReply

    I see that this article was written by someone else and that you merely plagiarized it. I accept that and the fact that you do not like the movie.
    The reason I am writing you is because you lack the depth to understand the idea that life is full of unlimited possibilities. You may be wondering how I will prove this point but before I do I want you to understand this. That if you fail to follow my instructions, that you will have no grounds in suggesting that the latter is not possible for you wouldn't have the knowledge of the endless possibilities that exist in our lifetime. So, if you are ready I am going to point you towards a simple book that you can read in a day. A book so powerful that you will need too tell twelve friends so too build a support group around you. The book is titled "E2 (E-squared); written by Pamela Grout.

    If by chance you do reply without reading the book, please think before you do! Read the book and realize that you have been given a gift. In closing, of you do buy the book i ask that you write a wish on the inside cover and give it too someone outside of the twelve which you told. Instruct them to do the same and if there is no more space to write, then have them write in the margins or anywhere else they can around the knowledge which is within the covers.


    (The blank area is homage to Mr. Nobody)

  • Steven horvat | May 19, 2014 5:38 AMReply

    Your criticism on this movie sucks ass! You wouldn't know a good movie when you see one. Your so stupid and brain dead from pornos and action movies that something creative And genius would come along and blow your mind you have to diss it like all the other people in the world care about YOUR opinions and crap! How about you take you cave man club and go die in the snow because your a worthless critic and a looser. I'm sure my little ponies are up your ally for thoughtful and adventurous right! I loved this movie. It's creative and brilliant in a multi imaginative way. Wait I just blew your mind again... It was NEAT! ;)

  • R. | May 13, 2014 2:32 PMReply

    this reviewer is too stupid to grasp some of these ideas. If ur not the "sharpest tool in the shed" who'd prefer to watch Stephen seagull movies all day then this movie probably isn't for you. I mean you don't even really have to be that smart or know a lot about science to get it, this is some pretty basic stuff.Also I like how the reviewer explains how the raindrop fell and ruined the phone number and follows it w/ "ya we're not kidding"... Like how stupid are you. Don't you know things like that happen everyday. All the time. It's simple science. The world YOU live in. Wake up and take a look around, read a book. Everything is explained in this movie so the reviewer has no reason to not understand things unless he wasn't paying attention or he has the IQ of a squirrel

  • R | May 13, 2014 5:38 PM

    Srry. Ignorance bothers me. The only 1 flaw I could up with this movie is when the immortal said humans no longer have sex. Kina makes no sense seeing that humans have sex 4 pleasure as well as reproduction. But the rest of the movie was on point. Definitely a must watch 4 ppl who have an interest in science and theory.

  • E | May 1, 2014 3:32 PMReply

    Did the person who wrote this even watch the movie? This review has as more gaps then the writer claims the movie does

  • MohamedEatsHay | August 27, 2014 11:49 PM

    You watch your tongue you filth pot. You are the reason western culture must be destroyed, and why your cities will all have spears up their citizens asses. The movie was shit, u are 2

  • Ian | May 5, 2014 2:38 PM

    Agreed. This movie was amazing and at times, riveting. This has to be one of the best movies I have ever seen. Its a movie that keeps you watching to the very last scene and keeps you thinking even longer.

  • MEGAN | April 19, 2014 10:04 PMReply

    "There is no explanation why Nemo can do this and why no one else can, it just is." I stopped reading this review on paragraph three for that idiotic comment, just as the reviewer probably stopped watching after the beginning bit about Pigeon Superstitution. Twenty minutes into the film it explains why he can do this, the Angels of Oblivion did not wipe his memory so he knows everything.
    Don't take pieces of a film you've seen and try to discredit the whole movie. Watch the movie with your full attention and your "myriad of problems" will seize to exsist.

  • Spric92 | April 13, 2014 12:25 PMReply

    the people here are too embarrassing. this reviewer is beyond dumb.
    all of the 'issues' present in this review were explained during the course of the movie, provided one had the intellect and mental capacity to understand it - and many did; there were just the select few, ie, the idiot that wrote this, that failed to. the reviewer's complaints are as moronic and unstable as he claims the movie to be (though it isn't) - he at one point claims it to be too bland, and then mere sentences later proclaims it too over the top.
    what an imbecile.
    everything else was a literal direct attack on the movie and its viewers. as the post below me said; this was indeed shameful stuff.
    I didn't use this site in the first place, but if I had, I sure wouldn't now.

  • Rehjul | April 13, 2014 12:15 PMReply

    What a pretentious, obnoxious reviewer - as are many of his followers, which isn't very surprising.
    If these people took a moment to pull their heads out of their asses, perhaps they might be able to appreciate the movie.
    It's kind of... Well, it's really sad, when a person is so desperate to not understand or like a movie; many of the statements provided here only go to show the reviewer's lack of an understanding. The fact that this would be published as an actual review is enough for me to no longer browse this site. Shameful stuff.

  • Tyler | April 12, 2014 12:13 AMReply

    Holy shit, you moron. The year 2092 is relevant because thats when the big crunch happens, it is the end of time as we know it. Nemo is still mortal because in that particular squence of possibilities (read; imagination) he has remained in a coma due to his scooter accident. Because the angels of oblivion forgot to erase nemo's memory, he has eternal consciousness and can move forward or backward through space and time in his imagination. If you didn't understand the movie why did you even bother to write such a piece of shit review

  • Bc | April 6, 2014 7:43 AMReply

    Not that I think the movie was thaaat great... But didn't the reporter in the hospital talk about some sort of endless cell regeneration resulting in living forever....? And a few other things you said the movie didn't even explain when they clearly did.. How can you review a movie you clearly didn't even pay attention to?

  • Bob the Builder | February 27, 2014 3:27 PMReply

    This review makes some good points about the movie's flaws, but the writing is way too confrontational and dismissive. The reviewer does an amazing job belittling anyone who even remotely enjoyed any aspect of the film.

    I personally enjoyed the film greatly. It dramatizes some extremely complex ideas about time, choice, free will, love, and fate, and it left me with a sense of wonder for the ethereal qualities of life.

    Also, the so-called "ridiculous tangent about angels" is the key to understanding this movie.

  • denise | November 30, 2013 11:29 PMReply

    I agree that releasing the somewhat similar films you named
    Before Mr.Nobody did not help it. However, I thought the film was at
    Least as cohesive as Cloud Atlas. And let's be brutally honest is any
    Crtitic ever gonna give Jared Leto an honest review. You guys can't stand him when he succeeds as a musician and you slam him when he acts. Funny how many noted directors thankfully ignore you and we
    Still get to see Jared do both, Aronofsky, Oliver Stone, you know the list.

  • Enjoys mr.mike | October 28, 2013 12:01 AMReply

    Be honest now mike, you're secretly the writer of this terribly offput narrow minded review.

    The movie was a quite brilliant perplexing story about life and choices. If you were too stupid to see that, you should probably stop watching movies like this and stick to watching the latest superhero or cliche romantic comedies like I kbow you do.

    Also you comment on peoples comments and say they have no right to a view on this movie, or their own opinion, what makes you so grand that you can make your own opi.... oh waot, you didn't make your own opinion, you just copied the reviewer. I'd probably take the masses opinion over yours.

  • jesuslovesarabcock | February 10, 2014 8:50 AM

    This movie was an utter mess with a pretentious tone,convoluted plot,mediocre acting,irritating score....I could go on. Just because someone truthfully called out your favourite movie for the rubbish it is doesn't make that person narrow minded

  • MIKE | October 25, 2013 10:33 PMReply

    Great review, Kevin !

    I had the same impulse to walk out, for the same reasons. Your criticisms of this juvenile mess of a film are well thought out, and articulated - unlike those of your detractors below.

    I suppose a sophomoric movie draws likewise sophomoric minded fans...

  • SARA | October 28, 2013 10:11 PM

    You are a complete moron.

  • Melissa | October 21, 2013 8:11 PMReply

    What an idiotic review. He has clearly missed the entire point of the film. Mr.Nobody is a beautiful film about life, philosophy and the concept of fate, time and space. I love this movie and in my opinion it surpasses many films within a similar genre including Inception or Cloud Atlas. There is nothing like it and even after re-watching it more than 20 times there is always something new and intriguing about this film.

  • allahisgreat | February 10, 2014 8:42 AM

    hey melissa....u insufferable prostitute,everyone has the right to his/her opinion...and this movie was utter rubbish...that's a fact...the truth hurts,doesn't it?.....

  • MIKE | October 25, 2013 10:06 PM

    Get a life. A real one.

  • Jesse | October 20, 2013 6:04 PMReply

    "And they arrived loud and clear when Nemo gave the first of four lectures on physics and string theory directly to the camera during the Anna storyline (it appears he's some kind of science show TV host, but again, that's left unexplained as well)."

    Hmmm. Were the scenes where the camera crew is evident or when the director calls it a day not enough to point to the fact that he is indeed working on some sort of science television show? Do you need some sort of dialogue like "Honey, I am going to my job working on the science show for the Discovery Channel where I explain various scientific theories. I should be back when i'm done."

  • Tom | October 20, 2013 11:17 AMReply

    Just because you don't understand the movie, doesn't indicate that it's a bad movie. It means you are unintelligent.

  • praisemuhammad | February 10, 2014 8:44 AM

    Since when did movies become synonymous with intelligence? If you were really intelligent,you would be reading science journals instead of watching rubbish movies like this one

  • MIKE | October 25, 2013 10:12 PM

    Yes - everyone that has ANY criticism of this pretentious, sophomoric movie didn't "understand it".

    Grow up.

  • Ben | October 3, 2013 10:41 AMReply

    A review as childish as what I'm about to say. Don't trust a guy named Kevin when it comes to movies.

  • jingmei | September 29, 2013 1:13 AMReply

    This film was made many years ago.

  • Kris | September 28, 2013 6:56 PMReply

    Mr Nobody is one of the best films ever made, and this review is certainly THE worst film review I ever read. This review is truly a disgrace for moviegoers. Misleading, unfair, and simply non-sensical text.

    I suggest the Mr. Jagernauth continues his carreer doing some brainless activities, for he just engaged in a nice sample of crappy writing. Perhaps the boulevard press awaits you?

  • muhammadsodomisedjesus | February 10, 2014 8:47 AM

    This review was absolutely spot on.The movie was a disgrace to cinema .It would serve you better if you realised the truth about this rubbish movie instead of masturbating to jerkhead leto

  • MIKE | October 25, 2013 10:13 PM

    It certainly awaits you...

  • StrictP | September 28, 2013 1:52 PMReply

    What an unhelpful review. Loved this movie and have passed it along to many other people who have loved it as well. A very touching and thoughtful story about choices.

  • DERP | September 28, 2013 12:07 PMReply

    LOL! A stupid reviewer here. The reviewer OBVIOUSLY didn't get what the movie meant. You need to watch it really hard and more than 1 time only to get the meaning. There's a LOT of clues and reference from the previous scene in this movie. Use your brain.

  • jesuslikesitintheass | February 10, 2014 8:54 AM

    You are the only idiot here. The reviewer did a great job in calling out this utter excrement of a movie for what it truly is.Insecure nerds like you claim to like such movies due to a desperate need to prove yourselves "unconventional"

  • MIKE | October 25, 2013 10:17 PM

    Your screen name is certainly appropriate.

    ... and just a tip - your comments, as useless as they are, would none the less carry bit more weight if you didn't start them off with "LOL".


  • A Reader | September 28, 2013 10:08 AMReply

    Really unfair review of a beautiful movie. It wasn't perfect, but definitely worth seeing. Your mocking tone is evidence that you really didn't even get it.

  • Jay Cormier | September 28, 2013 5:10 AMReply

    I couldn't disagree more and found this movie to be my favourite movie I saw at TIFF the year it played there. It's a romantic puzzler of a movie that is full of so many fun and interesting ideas, it seems like the reviewer here just couldn't get into it. It's too bad. I've since bought it on Blu-Ray and have watched it numerous times, each time coming away with something new. This is honestly one of my favourite movies. To each his own!

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