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MOVIES THAT DON’T SUCK: ‘Mr. Nobody’ offers rich acting, cinematography, philosophy

When trying to choose a movie to watch with a friend, the most important thing to consider is what kind of movie watcher they are. If they’re the kind of person that interrupts every five minutes with a question about the plot, then it’s best that you steer them away from the likes of “Mr. Nobody.”

“Mr. Nobody” is an odd one, to be sure. The Netflix description offered no help whatsoever: “Nemo Nobody, the last mortal on earth, reviews his life to see if he made the right choices.”

Not even close.

While it is true that the film focuses on the titular 128-year-old Nemo Nobody, it’s not the simple autobiographical reflection that the description makes it out to be.

In fact, the entire portion of the movie that deals with the future takes a back seat to Nemo’s life with one twist that makes the movie the confusing jumble of plotlines that it is: Nemo has a vivid memory of every life he could have lived.

To put it (slightly more) simply, what Nemo relates to the audience is not only one life, but every life that could have resulted from any life-changing decisions he’s ever made.

The multitude of different lives ultimately stems from Nemo’s decision of with whom he will live when his parents divorce.

One of the plotlines goes like this: Nemo decides to stay with his father, which results in him meeting a girl named Elise at a dance. They agree to go out the next day. Nemo comes to pick her up only to see her kissing another boy, leading to him angrily driving a motorcycle through the countryside, resulting in a horrible crash that leaves him comatose.

Of course, we also see the timeline where Nemo arrives five minutes later (the other boy is long gone by then). This results in either his going out (and later marrying) Elise or her refusing to consider it.

That’s not even where those stories end. Not even the one where he’s comatose.

Without seeing “Mr. Nobody,” I would have felt it would be next to impossible for this movie to work with the dozen or so different lives that it juggles. The film conjures up images of the well-intentioned but slightly off sci-fi film, “Cloud Atlas.”

It’s non-linear, too, so you should probably keep a few aspirins near your popcorn bowl when the stress of keeping all these different plotlines in your head begins to fry your brain.

However, leading man Jared Leto manages to pull it off. I’m not surprised at all, considering the phenomenal performance that Leto gave us as the transgendered drug addict, Rayon, in 2013’s “Dallas Buyer’s Club.”

Though “Mr. Nobody” features a fantastic supporting cast (such as Toby Regbo as Nemo’s 15-year-old self),  their performances don’t come close to the skill with which Leto juggles the various Nemos  in the film.

In playing the numerous permutations of Nemo, Leto was faced with a challenge: playing the same character many different times, each with subtle differences in who they are.

Leto pulls this off with aplomb, managing to meet the aforementioned challenge head on, creating for the audience many different shades of the same character that are all different but all “distinctly Nemo.”

Whether it’s the long-hair-sporting, pool cleaner Nemo (who lives in a converted warehouse in New York) or the slightly creepy, sci-fi writing introvert Nemo (who is created when Elise dies in one of the many different potentialities), Leto performs each character’s intrinsic subtleties to their fullest.

Regbo also performs admirably, though, as with the supporting cast, he doesn’t have as much on his plate as Leto. As mentioned earlier, Regbo plays a teenaged Nemo, so his plotlines are lacking in the subtle character differences present in Leto’s Nemos.

The soundtrack is also quite good.

While the mixing-in of many well-known hits—such as “Everyday” by Buddy Holly and “Mr. Sandman” by the Chordettes—greatly contributes to the film, the real greatness is found in the score, written by Belgian composer Pierre Van Dormael shortly before his death.

Though the score doesn’t distinguish itself per se, Van Dormael’s gentle guitar pieces give the film an atmosphere that is consistent despite the constantly shifting settings and characters.

Overall, “Mr. Nobody” delivers a drama that is rich not only in acting and cinematography but also in philosophy, namely, that knowing the future doesn’t always mean you’ll know what choices to make.

And be sure to look at the synopsis on Wikipedia after you’ve finished, just in case you’re still confused.

I know I was.

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