IHAO on ... Mr. Nobody - READER REQUEST

Requested by William Newman

Goodness.  The requester watched this very dense art film and just wasn't sure what to think.  So he requested I talk about it.  Because I, as a film critic, have gotten pretty good at being able to see the storytelling and artful techniques within films.  Or because we're friends and he was curious.  Or I dunno, he was bored.  I'm not sure the reason, but it was requested.  So I watched it, finally.  And ... goodness.

All right.  This film is an art film more than any other genre, which I said above and have tagged it with below.  It is the first art film that I've talked about on this site like this, where even the term "drama" doesn't fit.  So let me first try to explain the conceit.  Many folks probably don't really get art films.  Art films in general do not care for a lot of the storytelling aspects we've come to feel are standard in filmmaker.  It isn't about narrative in the rising and falling action sense.  There is narrative, but it is a symbolic and emotional narrative.  The purpose is to ask questions and to ... look, I'm just wasting time waxing on here about nothing important because I wanted to let you get a feel for this film.

This 2009 art film is about choices.  You see a man's life and every variation of his life he could have made at three specific points.  You see him have to make a choice between parents as they divorce.  You see him make choices in his important romantic relationships as a teenager.  And you see him make choices in his important romantic relationships as an adult.

The film is very dense.  Purposefully so.  Almost alienatingly so.  I think it is more ... hold on, let me take that back and try it from a different angle.

Oh, hello, I didn't notice you there.  Would you like a cup of tea?

This is not a new conceit, a film where we see the choices a character makes change.  Run Lola Run is my personal favorite of this narrative element.  But Run Lola Run works.  And Mr. Nobody doesn't.  Why?  Mostly because Run Lola Run is simpler and about more than just those choices.  Mr. Nobody is very much just about its philosophy, and forgets to actually engage the standard audience.  And yes, some films are not for the standard audience.  But unless you are purposefully alienating the audience, I feel a film does a disservice if they do not try to make the audience be able to grasp its purpose.

Let me talk about good things.  Juno Temple is wonderful.  I fall in love with her in each film I see her in, like the Brass Teapot I reviewed before.  That is an incredible skill.  It also means that the sequence with her in it is my favorite, and is also the sequence that gets the most time.  There is an actual dramatic and romantic and tragic story told there, and it gets the most uninterrupted, simple and ... no, not simple, it is a very interesting and thick sequence, but it is lacking in the artifice of symbolism and ART FILM that the rest of the movie has.

Unfortunately, that is all I really have good to say.  The movie isn't bad, or anything.  But I did ultimately find it not enjoyable, and fairly average.  It is shot perfectly fine, though it is dense.  And it is easier to follow than Septien, another art film that felt less arty than this.  But I find that I dislike this film because of its moments where it shines.  There are fantasy sequences that are treated like reality.  The "choice" the boy has to make isn't even a choice because the mother is an irredeemable [curseword]-blaster, and the way that scene is shot the child doesn't really HAVE a choice, or at least not a realistic one.

That's the film's biggest problem.  It's ideas are all perfectly fine, but when stapled to each other, you can see the holes, if you catch my metaphor.  Such as a sequence where for whatever reason one version of him has decided to make all choices based on a coin flip.  That is a GREAT idea for a film.  And it is about two minutes of screentime in an already dense film.  Much like the complication of the scenes with Juno Temple, which makes a great film all by itself without the rest.  This movie feels like the writer/director had seen Run Lola Run and other films like it and felt he had to one-up the conceit.  It works, but is ultimately mostly unenjoyable.

Grade: C-

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