Nemo Nobody (Jared Leto) narrates apparently from the morgue, although he dies several different deaths in an opening montage. Actually, he’s the last living mortal in 2092, about to die of natural causes at age 118. Everyone else has quasi-immortality thanks to stem cell compatible pigs they carry, I assume to regenerate any failing organs.
Old Nemo tells his life story to a reporter. Early on he introduces the concept of the butterfly effect, only Nemo lives every possible outcome at the same time. There are three different women he loves, each as teens and as adults, has different kids with each and he either lives with his mother or father after their divorce. There are more permutations so I lost count, but you totally follow them all.
I relate to most movies by thinking about my past. Mr. Nobody has me evaluating my future. What if we could experience every possible choice we have to make in life? The transitions are seamless. Often the realities change through a matching object in both worlds, but whatever the transition, we know exactly where we are.
Writer/director Jaco van Dormael gets trippy like nothing Fincher, Aronofsky, Malick or Bergman have done. A scene where street signs and mirrors guide Nemo is amazing. Nemo’s footsteps appear ahead of him. Primordial babies choose which parents to be conceived under. Helicopters drop cubes of ocean into the surf. A scene jitters as Nemo’s typewriter jams, as if he’s writing it, and that’s the only time it happens. You’ll see the old Monty Python foot stomping gag in live action!
All of Nemo’s lives are painful. No matter what he chooses, he experiences heartbreak, death of loved ones, his own death, and clinical depression. My future seems brighter, but the film makes the strong point that every experience is worthwhile. The goal isn’t to choose the easiest path. It’s to LIVE.
The ultimate explanation may be more obvious than you expect, but the exploration of the concept is so profound, that’s the mind-blower. You could say it’s memory, where every permutation of our life can exist in our visualization, but I think it’s even deeper metaphysically. As Anna (Diane Kruger) suggests, there could be a cosmic event that crunches every timeline together simultaneously.
The finale totally gives you a new way to look at the film so you could see it again knowing different information. I could write this review again after everyone’s seen the film, so we can talk about that perspective. That’s what the film wants, to get us thinking beyond beginning to end, but I still live in that world. I can only imagine the nonlinear experience of Mr. Nobody.