Nemo Nobody (Jared Leto) is a one hundred and eighteen-year-old man who is the sole surviving mortal in a world where everyone lives as long as they like, but the authorities think he's finally about to pass away, so have arranged a vote among the interested populace to see who thinks he should be given his chance to live longer, and who thinks he should die. As he lies in hospital he is visited by a journalist (Daniel Mays) who interviews him about his life and tries to work out the path that took Nemo to here, but that proves easier said than done...
Which is because Mr. Nobody's memories are a lot more confusing in retrospect, as he may not have seen any contradiction in living three lives at the time, but now as he looks back he wonders which, if any, had been real, and whether he can pick and choose the parts which make sense and reject the others. This was writer and director Jaco Van Dormael's third feature in twenty years, nowhere near enough for his fans clamouring for more after his near masterpieces of Toto the Hero and The Eighth Day, as thirteen years had passed between the latter and this, his insanely ambitious but financially costly follow-up.
It's hard to believe a film this expensive slipped below the radar, but it was as if the gap between projects had caused the film world which awarded him a precious cult status to forget him, or even dismiss him so that by the time Mr. Nobody arrived it may have been his biggest production, but the train had long left the station. However, it was not all bad news as there were those who sought it out, perhaps because it was Leto's final starring role before giving up acting to concentrate on his band, or maybe because they were one of Van Dormael's cultists simply delighted they had a new work to obsess over. The question that concerned them now was if it was worth the wait.
Certainly it was a film very much in his style, so if you enjoyed his other movies there was a strong chance you'd appreciate this one, but after a while you couldn't ignore how sprawling, verging on the undisciplined, Mr. Nobody was. Worse than that, with its over two hour long running time, it came across as bloated, and tested many viewers not used to the filmmaker's approach as to how far they would be willing to spend with a story that refused to explain itself until the very end of what was undeniably a lengthy experience. And even when that explanation came, they might not grasp its implications which were basically when your life is at a crossroads of impossible choices, the best choice may well be to opt out of choosing altogether.
Nemo and the people around him, some of whom as with that character were played by different actors and actresses whose accents confusingly changed depending on who was on screen at the time, are part of a variety of scenarios, stretching from early childhood to his eventual status as the oldest mortal (Leto covered in old age makeup looking like Dustin Hoffman in Little Big Man). Many of those highlighted Nemo's fractured love life as he tried to cope with loving more than one woman, all of whom loved him back but were damaged in their own ways that he could not help with as much as he'd wanted (Sarah Polley as one of the wives spends most of her appearance crying). This led him to curious science fiction set ups, even a trip to Mars (fitting for Jared, eh?), but mostly the melancholy and frustration of never knowing the right course of action at any one stage in life was what consumed him. This all stemmed from a decision he had to make as a child with no easy answer, and if you could respond there was a poignant message here - but there was a lot of baggage to get through, a lot like real life. Music by Pierre Van Dormael.