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This poem is a couplet, a two-liner rhyme,
For readers and poets who haven’t much time.

Or rather it could have been, if I’d decided,
But maybe I’ll make it a villanelle instead.
Which bears repetition by which it is guided.

You ask who would make such a change? Answer: I did.
So this is a villanelle now, as you’ve read,
Or rather it could have been, if I’d decided.

Let’s not be verbose.
A haiku might be better
To save syllables.

But then again, a sonnet I’d allow.
For fourteen lines in length would be provided
If only I would end this poem right now.

So what kind of poem was this one?
All four that I’ve named, or else none?
You can only decide
Once you’ve finished and tried
Looking backward when all’s said and done.

MPAA rating: R (mostly for sensuality and 2 F-words, seemed closer to a PG-13)

Well, this movie was a trip. I’ve been curious about Mr. Nobody for a while now, based on what I’d read about its unusual nonlinear story, and I can confirm it’s certainly unique. On one level, it’s a mind-bending, provocative tale of the potential directions life can take, which is exactly the kind of story I love, but it also is a bit too abstract for its own good.

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The title character is Nemo Nobody (Jared Leto), a man born in 1975 who ends up living till 2094 as the oldest and last mortal in a world that has achieved quasi-immortality through science. Plagued by memory loss, he is interviewed on his deathbed by a tattooed psychiatrist (Allan Corduner) and a journalist (Daniel Mays), both of whom are perplexed by the unusually disparate histories he recounts, lives that split at major crossroads in his life, particularly a train station when he had to choose which divorcing parent to stay with at the age of nine.

To call Mr. Nobody peculiar is an understatement; it’s a full-blown experimental film. It’s amazing to me that such a film was made at all, and even more amazing that it was made three years before Cloud Atlas, which is the closest film I can compare it to in terms of cosmic ambition and madcap editing. Due to Nemo’s ability to see possible futures, it swings back and forth between Nemo’s potential lives: the three women he could marry, the jobs he could have taken, the mistakes and accidents he endures or avoids. Also interspersed are more fantastical detours, such as a future journey to Mars that doubles as a story written by a teenage Nemo and a surreal argyle-themed dream world that may or may not be part of Nemo’s subconscious.

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Sometimes, these various storylines seem designed to confuse: The beginning shows bits and pieces of all the timelines in quick succession, like a sneak peek that leads to moments of revelation but is bewildering in the moment. In other cases, it gives a particular story more time to develop emotions, such as a romance between a teenage Nemo (Toby Regbo) and his stepsister Anna (Juno Temple; Diane Kruger as an adult) or the mental illness of one of Nemo’s other wives (Sarah Polley). Most of these timelines end in tragedy, yet others retain a sense of hope that one of Nemo’s decisions could lead to happiness.

At a certain point, the journalist interviewing the 118-year-old Nemo asks what the truth is, since not all of these lives could have happened, and Mr. Nobody’s answer extols the endlessness of possibility without providing a real answer. In that vein, one of Nemo’s professions is as the host of a TV science show, which allows him to ask big cosmic what-if questions that some might consider deep but ultimately boil down to “No one knows,” to the point that they’re almost meaningless, which may excite philosophers but can be frustrating to viewers who desire concrete answers. Plus, there’s uncertainty about whether some timelines are “real” at all, like the Mars mission that doesn’t always seem like something Nemo made up. Likewise, the ending is a strange mix of long-awaited satisfaction, pseudo-science that I at least didn’t fully understand, and a sweet conclusion undercut by a lack of context.

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So, while Mr. Nobody frustrated me more, I suppose my final opinion is the same as for Cloud Atlas: a magnificent mess that individual viewers must decide whether it’s a masterpiece or a trainwreck. It certainly never fails to enchant visually, particularly several sequences that depict the butterfly effect (reminding me of similar scenes in Ink and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), and the special effects, cinematography, and Pierre Van Dormael’s score are exceptional. At times, it seems to borrow individual motifs from the likes of Forrest Gump, When Harry Met Sally…, and Harold and Maude, yet all of the ingredients come together to form something wholly distinctive and idiosyncratic, for good or ill. It’s a film like no other, featuring Jared Leto’s best performance I’ve seen and individual scenes I loved, and, though its complexity and length will not be for everyone, it’s an experiment worth experiencing.

Best line: (Nemo Nobody) “At my age the candles cost more than the cake. I’m not afraid of dying. I’m afraid I haven’t been alive enough. It should be written on every school room blackboard: Life is a playground… or nothing.”


Rank: List Runner-Up


© 2019 S.G. Liput
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