Pros: Leto as old man and younger self; intriguing stories
Cons: dragged sometimes; could be annoying
I’m not sure why 2009’s Mr. Nobody, a spectacular-looking indie directed by Belgian-born Jaco van Dormael and starring Jared Leto, took four years to be released briefly to U.S. theaters. Some critics who don’t care for bizarre, futuristic flicks that provoke reflection on your life may say that the film didn’t live up to its potential and that caused the big delay. I doubt that’s the reason. The DVD had already come out in 2010 and the indie was probably forgotten about until Dallas Buyer’s Club reminded people of how extraordinary Jared Leto is as an actor.
This is one wild, though sluggish, ride. Leto plays a very old man named Nemo Nobody who is the last mortal in the year 2092 when everybody is a quasi-immortal who always remain young and healthy, but is forbidden to have sex. A journalist sneaks into Nobody’s hospital room with a view where the raspy-voiced old geezer is dying and he asks him what life used to be like, what his story is. He has no idea what a loaded question that was!
That above is Jared Leto after five hours of make-up and not only does Leto look the part, but he sounds, walks, and acts the way you would imagine a 118-year-old man would. It’s an incredible transformation by a brilliant actor helped by brilliant special effects people.
As you might expect, Nobody’s story is told in a very non-linear, fantastic fashion like you find in oral histories. It all begins when as a boy he was asked to choose between living with his mother on her way to Canada or his father staying in England. He’s chasing after a train taking his mother away and that’s when the story breaks into a great many directions, possible lives that result from choosing his mother or father. Sometimes he’s married to one woman, sometimes two others and with different children, careers, or passion about living. Leto’s disjointed adult characters come after child and teen characters played by other, fairly engaging actors.
The 160-minute runtime isn’t simply framed by visits with the old man. Leto shows off his acting chops as Nobody throughout the film, but I could’ve watched more of him than the child and teen versions of him. I also found Sarah Polley’s depressed character a bit irritating because she whined and cried and screamed nearly all the time. Diane Kruger as Nobody’s one true love was pretty awesome.
Nobody could be anybody or everybody. We all have made huge choices in life that we’ve either regretted or wondered if we made the right choice and how different our life might be if we’d chosen differently. The old man just laughs when the journalist expresses his confusion. What this tells me is that it really doesn’t matter what he chose or lived out his life because in the end he lives all choices, his life results in all the paths of possibility weaving together. The final scenes of his younger self and lover hurling out into space from a Martian observatory and another one from his hospital room indicates this to be the meaning.
Mr. Nobody won’t be for everybody, of course. It may be too ambitious, confusing, and indie for you, but while it’s a little flawed I think it’s well worth the time, as well as an illuminating making- of featurette as a DVD extra, if only to see Leto as a very old, cackling man. The picture below is Leto as one of his younger, gorgeous selves and amusing dialogue