The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Eye candy about lives that could have been

with 17 comments

Life is an endless stretch of choices. Sometimes I just get so get so tired of it. I can almost long back for the days when there was only one telephone company and electricity provider in Sweden and no one asked you to choose how your retirement funds should be placed, because the government did it for you.

We’re all facing the small choices at the coffee machine in the morning. “Is this a Latte day, a Cappuccino day or a simple “With milk day?” And we’re all facing the big choices. “Am I married to the right guy? Is it too late to change to new profession?” And there’s no escape. You have to push a button at the coffee machine eventually. And even if we postpone major, hard decisions, that is just self delusion. Not choosing as a choice as well.

This can be somewhat scary to think about. Almost paralyzing, at least if you’re a teenager with a newborn fascination with Jean-Paul Sartre.

We choose and choose and choose and what if we make the wrong choices? What could my life have been like if I only had or hadn’t…? While I try as much as anyone else to live in the present, not bothering too much about what’s been and what possibly has been lost, I would lie if I said that I never ever gave those things a thought.

Parallel universes
In this perspective it has always given me a bit of comfort to think about the idea of parallel universes. . Our choices don’t rule out anything. Side by side with our universe, there’s another one, where I chose differently. I may not have used my full potential in life, but there’s an alternative world where there is another Jessica who has. Even if we can only speculate about each other and never communicate, the idea that she exists is kind of cool. Equally I can think about all those sad Jessicas in other parallel universes. They did way worse decisions than I have done in this version of my life, and now they’re suffering from the consequences. Poor creatures.

Obviously I’m not the only one to ponder upon such things. There are several movies (Sliding Doors , Run Lola, Run and Blind Chance) which show how a small event – by choice or by accident – can have a big impact on our lives, since one thing leads to another in completely different directions.

But just because there already are movies dealing with the topic, it doesn’t that there isn’t room for more, providing that they add something new to the table. And that is certainly something you can say about Mr Nobody.

I would hesitate to call it a science fiction film, since so much of it takes place in our time. But it takes off in the year 2092, when everyone in mankind has acquired eternal life, apart from the last living “normal” person, Nemo, who at the age of 118 looks back at his life. Or rather at his many lives that he could have – or maybe has – lived – following different choices.

The movie jumps back and forward in different timelines and I bet that if you tried to draw it on a paper, it would be about as confusing as the one in Primer. But in this case it didn’t lessen my enjoyment. I felt no need to follow all the details or know exactly what everything meant. At the core it was a bittersweet story about young love with complications and about family life under different circumstances and about how life not always turns out the way you wanted it to.

Eye candy
I can’t write about this movie without mentioning the eye candy, and I’m not only referring to Jared Leto, who plays Nemo (and does it well). It’s also about the visuals, which are creative, lavish and even a bit extravagant. And so they should be with an estimated budget at 47 million dollars, if we’re to believe IMDb. According to the same resource the ticket sales for this movie have been very, very modest, far from covering the production. But then it’s mainly been showed at film festivals over the world, which obviously is a very limited audience.

My hope is that my review of this one will be enough to convince a few more to see it. Because it’s wonderful. Watching this movie made me silly happy. It did what movies do best – brought me to a world where anything can happen.

And even if you’ll end up not watching it in this world – you can always comfort yourself with the thought that there is a parallel universe where you will.

Mr. Nobody (Jaco van Dormael, 2009) My rating: 4,5/5

Written by Jessica

November 3, 2011 at 1:00 am

Posted in Mr Nobody

17 Responses

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  1. I am sorry to say Jessica, but I hated this film. I didn’t enjoy it in the slightest. Although my wife has a little crush on Mr Leto, she didn’t either.

    I am happy you got so much from it. It just didn’t connect with me at all. Sorry

    Great writing as ever my friend

    Scott Lawlor

    November 3, 2011 at 10:20 am

    • Hi Scott! Sorry for late response, I’ve been away on vacation for a few days.
      I’m sorry you didn’t like it but we can’t agree on everything, can we? Thanks for visiting! Always a pleasure to have you here.


      November 6, 2011 at 8:15 pm

  2. I haven’t seen this film (in Canada its distributors were dumb enough to open it the same weekend as INCEPTION), but after this beautiful and soul-searching post I really do want to track it down.

    In gratitude, allow me to suggest another title to even-up: Try to track down a film called ANOTHER EARTH.

    Ryan McNeil

    November 3, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    • Oh, I’ve heard about that one, but I have yet to find an opportunity to watch it. It’s totally on my want-to-see-list. Maybe I could send a suggestion to my film club and see if they could show it next year…. They’ve ran some sci-fi and time-travel themes before, perhaps there’s someone with a similar taste to mine there…


      November 6, 2011 at 8:17 pm

  3. Been on my to watch list for two years. I just noticed that it’s a movie by a Belgian director so combined with your thumbs up I’ll bump it up a few places on my to watch list.

    As for movies with different time lines, check out the butterfly effect if you haven’t done so already. Well worth seeing.

    And people don’t like to choose. It’s what makes the Aldi stores so popular. You go there and you buy eggs, you only have one choice of eggs and that’s fine with me. I don’t care if they’re biological, from chickens who run free, from chickens who run a bit free or a euphemism on the box for those chickens who aren’t running free. Just give me eggs.


    November 3, 2011 at 10:51 pm

    • I haven’t seen that one yet, but thanks for the tip. I’m sure I’ll like it. I’m such a sucker for this kind of movies.

      And I know about the “just give me eggs” feeling. There are days when I enjoy picking my groceries carefully, but more often I’d rather just get it done and over with… The less choices, the quicker and easier…


      November 6, 2011 at 8:19 pm

  4. I don’t mind a good mind-bending film (loved Run Lola Run) but I need to be in a certain frame of mind to enjoy it (can’t believe I used the word “mind” thrice in the same sentence!) – I’ll definitely be checking out this film and Primer as well, because I’ve heard good things!

    Great write-up!

    Rodney Twelftree

    November 4, 2011 at 9:30 am

    • Thanks! Go ahead and do that! As I’ve said before, I didn’t quite get Primer; it turned out to be too complicated for my brain to deal with. But this one I throughly enjoyed. I’d love to see what you’d make of the same movies.


      November 6, 2011 at 8:20 pm

  5. Yes! Another person who really connected with this movie. I was simply blown away by it and it ranks among my top 3 of all time favorite movies. The concept is so unique and original and all the subject matter it showed were things I thought to be very interesting. Have seen it a couple of times and it’s really an amazing movie which more people should be seeing.


    November 8, 2011 at 9:27 pm

  6. Loved this movie. The dircector earlier films are well worth to watch. It landed on my list of best films i´ve seen last year.


    November 11, 2011 at 9:05 am

  7. […] This is a film in the genre “Life is full of choices and crossroads. Depending on decisions you make and pure luck (or lack of thereof) your life can take a lot of different courses. And here we explore them and show them to you.” It’s a genre I like quite a bit, as evident by my previous praise for Mr Nobody. […]

  8. Great writing Jessica. You are the first person I’ve came across that enjoyed this as much as I did. Then again, I’ve not came across many who have actually seen it. Have you checked out Jaco van Dormael’s other films? TOTO THE HERO is particularly good.

    Mark Walker

    April 20, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    • Thank you! And ditto! I’m so glad to have found another fan!
      I’m afraid I haven’t seen anything else by him. I suspect it’s not all that easy to find them, but I’d really love to see more. That movie was so beautiful and had an energy reminding me of Run Lola Run. Wonderful!


      April 20, 2012 at 7:25 pm

      • I can’t remember exactly but I think this was only Van Dormael third or fourth film. He’s not made many and hasn’t made one since this. His other stuff is worth checking out though. Unfortunately, yes, they can be hard to come across. Check him up on Imdb.

        Mark Walker

        April 20, 2012 at 7:34 pm

  9. Very belatedly discovered this fantastic film: I’ve watched the blu-ray twice in the last couple of days. So I’m now looking to find reviewers who enjoyed as much as I did, which led me to your excellent review.

    I watched Toto the Hero many years ago and loved it, and just recently enjoyed it again, which led me to wonder what else the director had made, which in turn led me to Mr Nobody.

    Nods perhaps to Sliding Doors, The Truman Show, 2001, Little Big Man, but really so much more than a mash-up of other films. Technically brilliant but also emotionally resonant thanks to Nemo’s relationships with his parents and with the different potential loves of his life.

    Great to watch, enjoyable soundtrack, and fantastic performances from Jared Leto, Toby Regbo and the rest.

    Ken Langfield

    April 1, 2014 at 11:08 am

    • Sorry for responding so late, I’ve been away from bloggig for a while. Thank you for popping into my old reiew! I’m really happy to find another fan of it. I recently found out that it’s available at Netflix in Sweden, so I think I’m going to rewatch it soon. I’m certai that this one holds up for multiple watches.


      June 10, 2014 at 9:13 pm

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