My advice is pretty simple. Ignore the hype because there are only three kinds of people who will enjoy this film: those who appreciate cinematically stimulating shots and set details, those who enjoy a philosophical cerebral puzzler regardless of its packaging, and those who appreciate the offbeat nature of relatively good indie films. Look around. Almost everyone who likes this film fits in one category.
It's easy enough to fit into all three categories too, while remaining objective enough to know that this film isn't for everyone. It feels long after slogging through the middle and the non-linear format sometimes lends itself to the film and other times feels haphazard. It's not great, but it has greatness.
The whole is not really equal to the sum of its parts.
Or, more exactly, Mr. Nobody (Jared Leto) is riddled with clips and bits and moments that transcend the finished product. And even though there are not enough of them to make this film a masterpiece, there is a timeless quality about the work that will linger at least as long as the storyline, literally 2092.
Not all of the story takes place in 2092, but this futuristic jumping point is a good enough indication that things can get weird. The protagonist is a 118-year-old man, being billed as the last mortal on Earth.
The balance of the population has conquered mortality. They live in a world where everyone has access to an endless renewal of cells, except Nemo Nobody, which makes him the most interesting novelty on the planet. Everyone wants to know about his finite life and how he lived it.
The only rough patch is that he can only remember it through dreams and hypnosis-induced memories, mostly pre-birth until age 9, age 15, and age 34. These three later ages aren't random either. The first represents a major life choice, the second represents the consequence and second major life choice, and the third plays out the consequences of those outcomes.
You have to make the right choice.
If Nobody has a gift, it is best summed up as the ability to see far into his own future in order to make the "right choice" or at least what appears to be the "right choice." He initially learns this when he cannot decide what to buy with a quarter that he eventually pockets. He can own all three, any time.
But not all choices work that way. Sometimes you have to choose, such as making the choice between parents who divorce, and play your life out from that point. Nobody gets to choose both. Nobody also gets to choose which girl will become the love of his life, for better and worse.
This choices plays out in a myriad and sometimes mired number of ways, but sometimes they also lead to beautiful lines, thoughts, and philosophies that are often sardonic and other times astute. The only trick is that you have to ferret many of them out because Jaco Van Dormael doesn't make it easy.
A few graphs about Jaco Van Dormael.
The Belgian film director Van Dormael won his first award for a short film in 1981, before going on to make a series of films that respectfully portrayed people with disabilities. His best known full-length films include Toto the Hero and The Eighth Day.
Mr. Nobody was his first English speaking film and his last notable film. It has rightfully received praise and accolades, but has yet to recoup the largest budget in Belgian film history. The most likely reason is its inaccessibility. As noted, it's a great film but not for everyone.
Mr. Nobody By Jaco Van Dormael Unravels 6.4 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.
The cast is immense, making it difficult to recognize everyone. Jared Leto stands out for his portrayal of the adult and old Nemo Nobody. The feat required him to play variations of the same man across very different life experiences. Sarah Polley portrays an adult Elise, with a striking portrayal of someone on the verge of a mental breakdown. All of the children, playing various parts at age 15, are memorable.
For something mesmerizingly different, provided you're willing to work for it, check out Mr. Nobody [BLU-RAY] on Amazon or rent the film on iTunes. Magnolia Pictures will also be releasing the film in select theaters this November. Currently, Sante Fe, New Mexico, and Vancouver, Washington, will open with play dates on November 1.