The last living mortal, age 118 years, is telling his story from a hospital bed in a future where everyone is now “semi-immortal.”
This man, Mr. Nobody, explains that before the big bang, there were 10 dimensions: 9 of them spatial and 1 temporal, and all were balled tightly together. When the big banged, 4 of these expanded: 3 of them spatial (we know them as length, width, and depth) and the fourth, temporal (time). The rest of the spatial dimensions remained bound up – but what if one of t hose six was actually temporal?
This movie explores the possibility of parallel universes existing for different choices that we make. Mr. Nemo Nobody (Jared Leto) remembers all of these universes as if he’s experienced them all. He remembers choosing to live with is mother AND choosing to live with his father. He remembers marrying and having a family with each of his childhood sweethearts. We see snippets from all of these lives as he recounts them as an old man to one very confused journalist.
The movie is experienced a little like a dream, non-linear sequences spliced together, recurring sounds and images, the visuals imaginative if not always convincing. The movie is big on the butterfly effect (something as small as a butterfly beating its wings can have a profound effect somewhere, anywhere down the line) and is too heavy-handed with his theme. It did raise lots of mind-melting questions, which I always love, because they allow me to annoy the shit out of my husband at bedtime, when he’s just about to drop off into la-la land and I’m wide-eyed and salivating.
If there are infinite possibilities, which one is “real”? Or can anything be real? Which actions will have universal consequences? How will your past decisions, even seemingly miniscule ones, shape your future?
To help us distinguish between Nemo’s various lives, the time periods are colour coded, and shot in different countries with different styles and musical cues to point the way. Which still doesn’t make it easy to contend with. The web is messy and tangled, and maybe that’s the point, but it still makes for difficult viewing. Each scene is a tiny cinematic event in and of itself, but sometimes it’s hard to imagine them as a whole. The narrative doesn’t always do its job holding things together, but Leto’s performance tries really hard to be up to the task, providing an emotional gooey centre to all of this philosophizing.
Director Jaco Van Dormael drops so many clues into his film that watching Mr. Nobody is like going on a treasure hunt. He may not always be sure of what he’s trying to say, but he’s ambitious nonetheless, and you’ve got to admire him for it.