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Film / Mr. Nobody

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A 2009 Science Fiction /Fantasy/Romance/Surrealist/Unclassifiable film by Jaco Van Dormael.

Jared Leto plays Nemo Nobody, the last mortal human in a future (specifically, 2092) where advancements in medical technology have cured us of the processes of old age and death. Nemo is 120 years old, and between psych examinations and an unofficial interview, he has quite the story(s) to tell...

One of those inexplicably unmarketed but impressively high-budget hidden treasures, the film was shot in Europe and Montreal in 2007, had its festival premiere in 2009, and was finally released in North America, on disc, in 2011. It has not been widely seen yet, but hope for a cult hit springs eternal.

Also starring Diane Kruger, Sarah Polley, Linh-Dan Pham, Rhys Ifans, Toby Regbo and Juno Temple.


This film provides examples of:

  • Alliterative Name: Nemo Nobody.
  • Alternate Timeline: All the different paths of Nemo's life are alternate timelines to each other.
  • Anachronic Order: Even though we see Nemo's lives unfold mostly linearly, every now and then the story jumps back and forth in years.
  • And You Were There: The journalist who Old!Nemo has been talking to is seen on the train Young!Nemo tries to catch at the end.
  • At the Crossroads: The train station where Young!Nemo has to decide which parent he wants to live with.
  • Awesome Mc Coolname: Nemo Nobody.
  • Bait-and-Switch: In the timeline where Nemo’s mother breaks up with Anna’s father, Nemo chases after the car and tries to intercept it by running in front of a pair of headlights. These turn out to be two motorcyclists moving in tandem.
  • Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie: Teenage!Nemo writes a story about himself going to Mars, inspired by Elise who makes him promise that if she dies, he'll spread her ashes there. The voyage to Mars actually happens later in the movie, though of course, we don't know how "real" this event is relative to the other, more realistic timelines.
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  • Butterfly of Doom: Nemo explicitly states that he lost Anna's phone number because an unemployed Brazilian man, in Brazil, boiled an egg for food, eventually resulting in heavy rains on the day he receives the phone number two days later. He also states the reason the man is unemployed is because Nemo bought a different company's jeans six months prior to the egg boiling incident.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Nemo, several times.
  • Central Theme: Nemo's story is about choice and the results of it.
  • Centrifugal Gravity: The sleeper ship headed to Mars has numerous rotating wheel habitats that create artificial gravity.
  • Colonized Solar System: In the 2090s, Mars is shown being gradually and realistically colonized by humans who travel there in cryosleep. A TV ad on Old!Nemo's screen implies that the Moon is colonized too.
  • Cradle To Grave Character: Nemo Nobody's story is depicted from the birth to the end of his life. Several times, since it is a Multiple-Choice Future.
  • Creator Cameo: Director Jaco Van Dormael as the unemployed Brazilian man who boils the egg.
  • Cursed With Awesome: Nemo being able to remember possible futures. It's played with, though, seeing as this helps him make his decision in the end.
    Anna: It doesn't seem like it can be much fun, knowing what's going to happen.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Nemo's very elaborate "memories" are technically visions of the future.
  • Everybody Has Lots of Sex: Shown throughout the movie.
    Nemo: We screwed! Everybody was always screwing.
  • Everything Is an iPod in the Future: Nemo's hospital room, for starters. The sleeper ship as well.
  • Eye Cam: Early on when Old Nemo looks through his fingers at Dr. Feldheim.
  • Facial Markings: The psychologist Dr. Feldheim.
  • Flash Back: The whole movie.
  • Flash Forward: The whole movie! It Makes Sense in Context.
  • Flash Sideways: The story often jumps from one timeline/branch to another where Nemo is the same age.
    • At the start of the movie, the timelines are interacting. "The sun hurts my eyes" is said by both Elise and Jean in different timelines and Nemo notices. Also, Jean!Nemo misremembers the names of his children as those of Elise!Nemo. Then Elise!Nemo gets a photograph in the mail of Jean!Nemo with Jean and their children. But then Old!Nemo wakes up.
    • When Nemo is drowning in any timeline, the story tends to cut to other timelines in which he is also drowning.
  • Flipping the Bird: When Old!Nemo notices that he's being filmed and shown on live TV, he angrily flips the bird to the Eye Spy-looking drones filming him and closes the futuristic shutters on them.
  • Flirty Stepsiblings: Nemo and Anna. And how!
  • For Want of a Nail: Explored:
    • Nemo's dad could have not been born.
    • Nemo's parents could have met or not.
    • Did Nemo call Anna's friends idiots or not?
    • Did Nemo's motorcycle crash or not?
  • Fourth Date Marriage: Jean has a First Dance Marriage.
  • Framing Device: Old!Nemo describing his memories, which are actually covertly framed by Young!Nemo's visions/imagination.
  • The Future: Old!Nemo is in 2092.
  • Genre-Busting: Let's see ... Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Romance, Drama, Comedy, Tragedy, Coming of Age, Experimental Film ...
  • Heads or Tails?: In the timeline where Nemo is married to Jean, he decides to leave everything and determine his life choices with a coin flip. Unsurprisingly, it eventually gets him killed.
  • Immortality Immorality: Certainly touched upon in other members of the future society.
  • In Medias Res: The film starts with the Old Nemo far in the future as the only mortal man in a society where everyone has attained immortality. Old Nemo is asked about his experiences and this leads into the whole film.
  • Insistent Terminology:
    Anna: He is NOT my brother!
  • I Will Wait for You: Nemo and Anna. And how. Oh man.
  • Meaningful Name: Nemo is Latin for “nobody”.
  • Meet Cute: Nemo and Anna meeting on the spaceship counts as one. Alas, it doesn't last long.
    • Also, Nemo's parents. It's part of the reason he chooses to be born to them.
  • Mighty Whitey and Mellow Yellow: Nemo and Jean. Jean is a quite Flat Character who is in love with Nemo and complains that he does not care enough about her.
  • Mind Screw: It certainly takes some effort to make sense of the movie's plot. Justified since a large portion of the film is in the nine-year-old Nemo's imagination.
  • Missed the Bus: The film explores different outcomes of the train station scene, depending on whether young Nemo makes the train with his mother or not.
  • Mood-Swinger: Elise.
  • Motifs: A few.
    • Each of Nemo's three possible love interests has a color assigned to them, as seen by their clothes from the very first time we see them, the flowers at their marriage, etc:
      • Anna is red.
      • Elise is blue.
      • Jean is yellow.
    • The train tracks are shown at various times to represent the branching timelines.
    • Water, in all its forms, and the activity of swimming.
    • Poppies.
    • Chess.
    • "Mr. Sandman"
    • The leaf.
  • Multiple Endings: Nemo's life somehow has them simultaneously.
  • Nested Story: Let's see: Young!Nemo remembers/envisions himself being Old!Nemo telling the stories of his life to a journalist and a psychologist; among those memories is the story of him writing a story of himself going to Mars, which is shown to (maybe) happen later in his life in one of the branches.
  • No Periods, Period: Averted. Anna (maybe) lies about having hers so that she can keep Young!Nemo company after he tells her that he can't swim in the timeline that he doesn't say "your friends are idiots" to her and they get together later.
  • Not Blood Siblings: Anna and Nemo are step-siblings (and lovers) and of the three women in Nemo's lives, Anna is his soulmate.
  • Object Tracking Shot: With a fallen leaf that ends up making Nemo's father slip and cause the Meet Cute with his mother.
  • Omniscient Hero: Nemo is a rare sympathetic example, and it is explored quite well what this means for him.
    • His omniscience is relative. He is only able to foresee larger future scenarios and is still surprised by individual events.
  • The Ophelia: Painfully deconstructed with Elise. Turns out that a mentally ill life partner is actually a lot less romantic than the books make it sound: it's exhausting, confusing, frequently terrifying, emotionally draining, and ultimately may very well end up being for nothing.
  • Reality Is Out to Lunch: When Nemo wakes up in the argyle world.
  • The Reveal:
    Old!Nemo to the journalist: You don't exist. Neither do I. We only live in the imagination of a nine year old child [...] faced with an impossible choice.
  • Rule of Symbolism
  • Rule of Three: Nemo's flashbacks occur at three different ages: 9 (the train station), 15 (as a teenager), and 34 (as a working adult).
  • Scenery Porn
  • Schrödinger's Butterfly: Which Nemo is the one existing right now; the old one remembering the past or the young one remembering the future?
    • Potentially both. Since Old!Nemo did not have his memories wiped by the Angels of Oblivion, thus remembering everything, when the Big Crunch of the Universe occurs at his death and time reverses, he remembers everything that he did before the death of the Universe, explaining his hearty laugh. But again, that could still be imagined once again by his 9 year old self.
  • Shout-Out:
    • 2001: A Space Odyssey: The look of the spaceship headed to Mars and the visual of an old man in a white room.
    • Little Big Man: The analepsis of a centenary man being interviewed by a journalist who records the interview with a tape recorder.
    • A Zed and Two Noughts: Nemo taking photo sequences of decomposing foods and animals after Elise's death.
    • To Monty Python's Flying Circus, when the giant foot stomps on the old house.
      • It also happens in È pericoloso sporgersi, the original 1984 short film the movie expands upon.
    • Requiem for a Dream: Nemo and Anna laying down with their heads close the same way Harry (also played by Jared Leto) and Marion do.
    • Big Fish: Nemo being in a submerged car and looking at a fish outside the window.
    • To The Matrix.
      Old!Nemo: Only the Architect knows.
    • Harold and Maude: Nemo as a teenager faking suicide attempts to upset his mother who ignores him.
    • A Woman Under the Influence: Elise having a manic episode at her daughter's birthday party.
  • Sleeper Starship: During the voyage to Mars, the passengers are sleeping in individual cells.
  • Space Clothes: Worn for the voyage to Mars. In that future, everyone's hair look like they just walked out midway through a hair colouring treatment.
  • Space Elevator: Used to descend from the spaceship to the colony on Mars, and vice versa.
  • Split Timelines Plot: While there are several alternate futures shown in the movie, the initial point of divergence is which parent Nemo goes with at the train station.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Nemo and Anna at times seem to be this, as when Anna moves away, the phone number she gives to Nemo is ruined by the rain, and in one of the Elise!timelines, they die directly after they meet when the spaceship is hit by meteorites.
  • Surrealism: The world with everybody wearing checkered vests, where something like a meta version of Nemo transitions between imaginary lives.
  • Take a Third Option: The path young!Nemo takes in the end. Maybe.
  • Take My Hand: Nemo and his mother during the Train-Station Goodbye. One time it works, the other time it doesn't.
  • Take That, Us: The film pokes fun at its own genre and origins with Nemo's observation that, throughout his life, "Most of the time, nothing happened... like a French film."
  • Temporal Mutability: Of the branching timelines variety, but from the past looking into possible futures.
  • Their First Time: Anna and Nemo. No planning shown, and no talking needed. So naturally, they succeed.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: Nemo and Anna are sucked into the vacuum of space when the windows of the sleeper ship are shattered by asteroids, before the whole thing explodes.
  • Timeshifted Actor: Three different actors are used each for Nemo, Anna, Elise, and Jean.
  • Time Travel: Mental Time Travel & Intangible Time Travel. Young!Nemo has visions of potential futures, branching out with each decision. He at the same time lives through everything and observes it, but is physically still at the train station weighing the decision.
  • Train-Station Goodbye: Crossroads for Nemo. We see how his life plays out depending on whether he says goodbye to his father or to his mother at the train station.
  • Two-Faced: Invoked with Nemo in the timeline where Elise dies in a road accident.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Old!Nemo's dissatisfaction with the future's lack of cigarettes, edible meat, and the physical act of lovemaking, despite the end of decrepitude and death.


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