There are two types of science fiction films that, for some obvious reasons, rarely see the light of day. One type employs complex narrative structures, the other makes the bold decision to ask audiences questions without providing simple, straightforward answers. Many devoted film buffs consider these genre tropes to be what makes science fiction cinema truly great. Unfortunately, mainstream sci-fi boils down to nothing but space fantasies, tales of dystopian futures, and action thrillers about man versus machine. While only a small number of entries in these subgenres have found their places in film history, it seems that true science fiction has lost its way in the movie world, but there have been a few gems of the genre released amidst Hollywood's hollow money-grabbers. "Mr. Nobody" is one of those gems, and it blends the two sci-fi tropes together into a seamless whole. It might not be the brightest gem, but it is definitely worth puzzling over for a considerable amount of time.
In the year 2092, humankind has achieved quasi-immortality, but there is one last mortal living out the final days of his 118-year-old life. Nemo Nobody (Jared Leto) has lived quite a lifetime; in fact, he has lived quite a lot of them. On his deathbed, Nemo (Leto buried deep in convincing old man makeup) recounts the many alternate paths he has taken in life, starting with the divorce of his parents at age nine, his choice between three different loves at age fifteen, and other various decisions made at age thirty-four. Told in a nonlinear format, the film examines the differences, and similarities, between each path.
Within no time, "Mr. Nobody" throws its audience for a loop by flying through a number of seemingly random points in Nemo's life, laying out the groundwork for what the film will be. Most of it feels incredibly disjointed and randomly edited together, which is exactly the point, but "Mr. Nobody" starts out on steady footing for viewers to easily hop onto the wild ride they will soon take. There are a few intervals in the film which Nemo himself narrating educational videos about scientific topics related to those woven in the film in order to provide the audience with insight into the film's inner workings. Some of these short intervals prove essential to understanding the climactic twist, others feel a bit like they stop the film dead in its tracks.
Overall, "Mr. Nobody" succeeds in maintaining a dreamlike atmosphere due to a number of key factors. The cinematography, though not eye-popping, holds your attention in its effort to capture Nemo's lives from many different and often strange angles. Some crafty editing also plays no small part in guiding the audience through shifting viewpoints and storylines with a subtle grace. The design of the future depicted in "Mr. Nobody" is what really takes the cake. Whereas most sci-fi films blatantly rip-off their classic predecessors, this one is sure to rely more on inspiration and aesthetic nods to what has come before. Lastly, the film has an excellent soundtrack composed of beautiful guitar and piano pieces as well as some classic tunes like "Mr. Sandman" and "For Your Precious Love."
At its heart, "Mr. Nobody" is pure science fiction, but what makes it so special is that it plays out much more like a romantic drama, therefore keeping viewers in Nemo's headspace and allowing them to connect with his emotional journey. Tender moments are never glossed over, resulting in some pretty convincing love scenes with both young and adult Nemo exchanging verbal and physical passion with his three lovers. The effectiveness of these scenes is also thanks to some remarkable performances by Leto, Diane Kruger, Sarah Polley, and Juno Temple as the younger version of Kruger's character.
While the film's nonlinear format is meant to befuddle the audience, there are some aspects of the film that truly don't make much sense. Nemo and a few other characters drop their British accents after their adolescent years, and part of the ending is a bit unclear. All problems aside, "Mr. Nobody" is a sci-fi film like no other that finds its own unique voice that asks questions about life choices that mainstream science fiction would never dare to ask. Those who are fed up with today's sci-fi blockbusters should definitely set some time aside and check it out on Netflix.