The best way to describe Jaco Van Dormael’s “Mr. Nobody” is as a fascinating mess. Working with the idea that there are multiple choices in our lives that lead to several more chances for multiple choices, he presents the story of a young boy, Nemo Nobody (Thomas Byrne), who is forced to choose between living with his mother or his father. In the midst of this choice, we see the various lives that would arise should he choose one way or the other, including how his life would be as a teenager (Toby Regbo) with various love interests, and how his life as an adult (Jared Leto) would be affected depending on which woman (Sarah Polley, Diane Kruger, and Linh Dan Pham) he ended up with. We even go far into the future with Nemo as a 118-year-old man recounting the possibilities to a reporter. Each of these lives are being lived simultaneously all because of one young boy’s impossible choice.
The idea behind “Mr. Nobody” is an intriguing and incredibly ambitious one, so it’s impossible to fault it completely when it doesn’t come together quite as well as its writer/director hoped. There are times when the film is entirely lucid in the points it wants to get across on love and the various choices we have to make throughout our lives, while at other times it seems lost in its overabundance of possibilities. You might say that there’s simply too much here. That is, too much that distracts from the film’s main point. With a little more editing to make the focus much clearer, this film could have been great, but unfortunately Van Dormael overindulged, clouding his film with stray scenes that would have been best left on the cutting room floor. Again, the film is far from a failure. It’s one that’s guaranteed to leave you thinking about it for a few days, but sadly the number of thoughts you have about its themes and complexity will probably be very close to the number of thoughts you have about how it could have been improved.
“Mr. Nobody” is presented in a 2.35:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of decent quality. There are times when the picture is somewhat dull during the presentation, but it does nothing to hinder the viewing of the film. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio has no noticeable flaws. All sounds come through loud and clear, and are presented at acceptable levels. Overall, there’s not much to complain about in either department.
The Making of Mr. Nobody: A pretty good “Making of” that runs about 45 minutes. It includes interviews with the cast and crew, most notably with writer/director Jaco Van Dormael, who explains the concept of his film. It’s worth watching if you’re looking to learn more about the film’s themes and ideas, in addition to how a lot of the film came together.
Deleted Scenes: Believe it or not, there were even more scenes that didn’t quite make it into the film. Here we have about seven minutes of scenes that feel completely unnecessary, which is probably the reason they were cut. Not particularly worth watching.
AXS TV: A Look at Mr. Nobody: At this point, it should be clear that these AXS TV featurettes are a complete waste of time, with this one being no different. All they are is about three minutes of footage mixed with tiny snippets of interviews that tell you nothing.
“Mr. Nobody” comes very close to a recommendation with an intriguing idea at its heart, but due to it being smothered by an over-extended runtime filled with a multitude of unnecessary parts, it doesn’t quite get there. As always, I encourage directors to take big risks to put together something incredibly ambitious like this, a narrative that jumps around to multiple storylines to tell a tale with deep themes. Sometimes it works out really well, such as in the masterpieces “Cloud Atlas” and “The Fountain,” but sometimes the focus gets away from the artist, and what we end up with is what I referred to it as from the start: a fascinating mess. Yet, even in those fascinating messes, there is often much to be admired and commended. Van Dormael tried something bold, and while it didn’t quite work out, there’s no way you can call it forgettable.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.
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