It seems that my Speculative Fiction Saturday has been doing “theme” months. One month, it was the films of Pixar, then the next month, it was the films of Terry Gilliam. I’m not certain what to call this month, I’m going to call it the 4 “I’s” films. These films are independent (not backed by a major studio), innovative (not like films from a major studio), and inconsistent (having deliberate “holes” in the plotline). So, as you can see…oh wait, I forgot the last “i”. I guess I was going for a four I’s, because this is The Geek Church after all. I suppose the final “i” is that the story often in-compasses an entire lifetime. (Yeah, I had to stretch it to make it work, but I know you have heard worse mnemonic devices.)
This will all make sense when I talk about the other films I will review. Today, it is Mr. Nobody, starring the one-and-only Jared Leto, the former musician who made a name for himself last year in Dallas Buyers Club. This role in Mr. Nobody is a a huge stretch for any actor, and the story is about a man who is the last mortal man who lives in a world where everyone is now immortal.
That is at least the Netflix description. This drew me to the film, as I thought the premise of being the last mortal in a now immortal world could be very interesting. So why is everyone becoming immortal? Why is Nemo Nobody (actual name, I think) the last mortal? Doesn’t he want to live forever like everyone else? These three questions are never addressed.
Instead, the film becomes a story of Nemo’s life told in very, very, very extended flashback. What makes it very weird is it has two framing devices. In one instance, Nemo is visiting a psychiatrist who has way too many facial tattoos, and ends up hypnotizing him so Nemo sees his past life. In the second occasion, the old Nemo is sitting in his bed while a journalist asks him some questions.
Then this film gets even weirder, and I have no idea if Nemo believes this next part is true. You see, Nemo believes that in some pre-existence, he could see his entire life laid out for him. Apparently, all kids were like this, until an angel touches them in that indentation right above your mouth. For some reason, the angels didn’t touch him, so he remembers past, present, and future. Nemo actually chooses what couple he is born into, and he only calls them “The Mommy” and “The Daddy”.
I honestly don’t know what to make of this. Even in a kid’s film, this would be going too far. The film then shows that Nemo has to make a tragic choice after his parents are separated. He actually makes this choice at the last second at the train station as his mother leaves. I’m sure the YouTube channel Cinema Sins would call “B.S.” on that, but there is so much more to this film that is just plain inconsistent.
In the film, we see that Nemo choosing one path with his mother, and the other with his father. From here, we are not seeing Nemo’s linear life, but a tree with many different branches of individual choices, each one leading to different consequences. There are some consistencies in these lives he chose, but he has actually three different wives in each lifetime. In some lives, he has kids, but in others, he does not.
The ending of the film is a wrap-up that tries to explain all the inconsistencies, but, in the end, feels very hackneyed. This is where I am going to disagree with these films that I will review this month. I know that some films don’t have the traditional three-act-structure, and I admire some directors that are willing to break tradition. The problem is that when you start breaking the unwritten rules of cinematic story-telling, it is difficult to know when to quit. Case in point, the pre-existence scenes that I mentioned before, as I almost felt should have been in a different movie. It’s like these movies are really presumptuous, but this is really the only way you can get away with doing fantastic elements in a movie without it suddenly being slapped with a genre-label of speculative fiction. I suppose the best way to describe this technique is “experimental”, but not all experiments work. In the case of Mr. Nobody, I would say this one is not as successful as it intended to be.