What would you choose if you could see the results of every one of the actions and decisions you ever made in your life? If you could watch time unfold before you if only you’d said something different to a certain someone or even as simple as opting for a cheaper pair of jeans instead of the pricier ones? What kind of life would you choose to live out? It is those greatest of pivotal moments in our lives that represents the proverbial crossroads of life that determine a great deal of our future. Whether it was to drop out of high school or whether you took the 10:30 bus or the 11:00 bus instead all of our decisions can impact our future.
Released in 2009 by Belgian director and writer Jaco Van Dormael, Mr. Nobody is a beautifully woven tale of a boy named Nemo (Jared Leto) who was missed by the Angels of Oblivion and therefore can see the results of his actions, can see the possible futures and must determine for himself the path his life will lead. While choosing who his parents will be upon birth was a major decision for Nemo, the most critical one is the one where he chooses to live with his father or his mother after their divorce. The train tracks at which he must make his decision serve as a strong visual metaphor and even colors are used symbolically throughout the film with many other recurring themes to help emphasize the results of his decisions. Having chosen a parent, this brings him to choose from amongst three-childhood friends as potential future wives: Anna dressed in passionate red, Elise dressed in melancholy blue, or Jeanne dressed in materialistic yellow. The colors do not represent the girls themselves, but their futures together. The story is narrated by an older Mr. Nemo Nobody, who is now 118 years-old in the year 2092 to an intrepid young journalist. He is the last mortal man on earth and as he tells his story, it weaves in and out through all the various potential timelines he might have lived through, including a universe where Nemo was never born. But knowledge does not always make things easier, as Nemo discovers “I don’t know the future, therefore I cannot make a decision. Now that I know the future I still cannot make one.”
The music to the film is rich and adds greatly to the experience; everything is purposefully and carefully placed in the film to help enhance the emotion conveyed or any other number of clues. Recurring themes and motifs such as the butterfly effect (often caused by maple leaves or literal butterflies), or the song Mr. Sandman that plays throughout the film sung by different groups each time helps to bring about the feeling that this is not all possible futures, but all futures that can only be lead by this one life. This is Nemo’s life we are seeing and no one else’s. The camera shots are equally as artistic and just as carefully done as everything else in the film and the actors chosen play their roles well. While the film is only 2 1/2 hours long, it does feel like a lifetime has passed. You view nearly every facet of Nemo’s life from since before he was conceived up to his death over a hundred years later. You watch him love and despair, be filled with hope and brought to his lowest.
It’s a very poignant film and really brings about a sense of almost dazzlement at the prospects of the future. If something so simple and tiny can affect us so greatly, where will our lives lead in 5, 10 years from now? If we could see all possible ends, and none of them satisfy us, what do we do then? Even if we believe that the only possible answers are yes or no, it is also possible that there is a third choice before us if only we can see what it is.