Mr. Nobody: The Paradox of Choice, Chaos Theory and Hidden Knowledge

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“You have to make the right choice. As long as you don’t choose, everything remains possible”-9 Year Old Nemo

In Western society we presume that more choice means better options and greater happiness in our lives. However, we should beware of excessive choice: choice overload can make us question the decisions we make before we even make them, it can set us up for unrealistically high expectations, and it can make us blame ourselves for any and all failures. In the long run, this can lead to a sort of decision-making paralysis. And in a culture that tells us that there is no justification for falling short of perfection when your options are infinite, too much choice can actually lead to clinical depression.

Over the past two decades, the use of antidepressants in America in particular, has skyrocketed. 1 in 10 Americans now takes an antidepressant medication; among women in their 40s and 50s, the figure is 1 in 4 which is staggering. This begs us to question whether this is directly causal to the ever increasing choices we have in our modern society; everything from groceries, phones, games, and even in the way we have access to people and relationships through social media and dating sites.

The 2009 film Mr. Nobody deals specifically with the paradox of choice and is honestly one of my favorite films to come out in the last decade and I have replayed it many times on days when the world (not life) bores me to the point where my mind needs something to think about instead of hearing about how Miley Cyrus is following the same trend that most Disney and Mickey Mouse Club stars follow through their Hollywood journey( there is a reason for this arching trend that I won’t get into since I don’t care to talk about Miley past these next few words on this platform).

Anyway, in Mr. Nobody, we follow the story of the man Nemo Nobody (Jared Leto) who is 118 year old man, the last mortal on Earth. Except him, all other people are immortal and they just want to know how he lived. Nemo himself says that he remembers nothing about his past and a psychiatrist, Dr. Feldheim, tries to make him recall memories through act hypnosis, and in that moment, majority of this story begins. And then we follow his life in three acts and every one of them is unique in his own way.

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Then there’s the moment at a dance, where 15-year-old Nemo (Toby Regbo) either falls in love with Elise (Clare Stone), who really loves someone else, or settles for Jean (Audrey Giacomini), or, he fell in love with his one, true love, Anna (Juno Temple), his step-sister and daughter of his mother’s new boyfriend.  But when his mother and her boyfriend split up, Nemo loses Anna until he’s 34, or not.  When he’s 34, Nemo (Leto), has a myriad of lives, including being happily married to Elise (Sarah Polley), who dies in an accident, not being happily married to Elise, who is suffering from relentless depression, being married to Joan (Linh Dan Pham) in a loveless marriage, finding Anna (Diane Kruger) by chance in a packed train station, finding her with a husband and two kids, finding her then losing her number when the ink runs after getting wet.

“In chess, it’s called Zugzwang… when the only viable move, is not to move at all.”- 9 Year Old Nemo

Jaco Van Dormael through great direction, multi-layered screenplay, remarkable cinematography showed us great, but ordinary slice of life story, with best and worst parts of us like human beings, but in not-ordinary Sci-Fi way, with great examples of quantum physics and theory of chaos, and especially of choosing the right path, the right way, making the right decision, but maybe the any choice is the right one. There is no doubt however that Jaco Van Dormael’s Mr. Nobody is overreaching. The film is in all honesty overambitious (I don’t care though that’s what I like) and unable to handle all of its themes with appropriate care. Its 160 minute running time might sound a little overwhelming but there’s so much here that it barely allows van Dormael to scratch the surface of all the things he included. This might be a little problematic if you expect a conclusive story and tightly wrapped whole, but that would be missing the whole point of the film; plus I don’t want to be sitting down for that long and risk pelvic floor injury- we have Kevin Costner films for that purpose.

“What was there before the big bang? Well, you see, there was no before because before the big bang, time did not exist. Time is a result of the expansion of the universe itself. But what will happen when the universe has finished expanding?”- Adult Nemo

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film with as many cinematic climaxes before. It’s astounding how Van Dormael turns each scene into a unique little cinematic event. There is hardly filler here, no scenes to drag out the running time or to fill some gaps in between other climaxes. Every scene matters and every scene is made to look like it matters. The director uses all means to his disposal to keep the viewer engaged and interested in the life of the main protagonist, Nemo Nobody.

Mr. Nobody is about the choices we make in life and how the big and little ones can affect the way things turn out. The only questions that preoccupy Nemo in the present is whether he lived the right life for himself, loved the woman whom he was supposed to love, and had the children whom he was meant to have and his purpose is to find the right answer. Ultimately, the film asks the question does it even matter in the end what choice or direction we choose- is any of this even Real?

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Mr Nobody is one of those rare films that can suck the viewer into its world. As you watch Mr Nobody and the various events you might not fully understand at the time the meaning of everything you see, but you will remain intrigued and as the movie progresses it starts to make more sense. There are quite a few things left up to interpretation, but the film should keep you thinking about it once the ending credits begin.

This film explains that absolutely nothing is certain – everything is pure imagination. It is like day-dreaming: you picture something and then one thing leads to another and you find yourself wondering what its like to be old and having grandchildren. This concept resonates well because it is true, you witness it every day in the world. People can “plan” their lives all they want yet nothing works out the way you hoped for or you thought was supposed to be. Plans are good for a guideline but never as the ultimate be all and end all; that’s just foolish. If you plan for everything in life you will ultimately miss out on the beautiful chaos to which life is all about.

The movie also flirts with the notion that humans are born with the hidden knowledge of their lives and that it may be possible to access these “future memories”. The only way I can explain the concept of “future memories” is through the example of déjà vu. We have all had this happen to us at one point in our lives- the seeing of future events or instances prior to them even occurring.

“There comes a time in life where everything seems narrow. Choices have been made. I can only continue on. I know myself like the back of my hand. I can predict my every reaction. My life has been cast in cement with airbags and seatbelts. I’ve done everything to reach this point and now that I’m here, I’m fucking bored”-Nemo

I have many times before have had this happen (as I am sure you have too) although nothing extreme or big, just predicting very small things like who I was going to run into that day, whether or not someone was going to cut themselves while chopping vegetables or what someone was going to say next. A lot of these moments happen with extreme accuracy to the point where we question if life is pre-determined or that humans have what is known as “Social Intelligence” (essentially we give off certain vibrations/signals out to the ether and thus manifest certain events around us, thoughts, and actions from people around us.

Mr. Nobody mentions the fact that this person (Nemo), before being born, wasn’t touched by the Angels of Oblivion on the top of the mouth. He was missed so he retained all of his memories. For this reason, he remembers picking out his parents, maybe then, the reason he knows everything is because he has lived all of those lives; each time that the universe expands and contracts it’s as though life is being repeated but also, they are all happening concurrently because time is something that we have made up. In realty, if it can even be called that, there is no concept of time and in a way, that’s more like a higher being, like God, almost. How He can be everywhere at once, it’s just that it’s too far over our heads to even understand.

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I’m certain Jaco Van Dormael’s threw in a couple of storylines just to F us around.  The alternatives and counterparts come at the drop of a hat, connect remotely with each other and not at all.  However, Leto is the thing that holds it all together.  I’ve lost track of Leto the last few years (Loved him in American Psycho), but his work is great here too.  I can only imagine what it took to keep this whole thing straight in his head- he must have felt like Christian Bale when he played Bret Easton Ellis’ Patrick Bateman.

In closing, the quote that we started off with by Nemo is a simple yet a profound one. It almost makes you want to make every important decision in life by way of flipping a coin; much like Javier Bardem in No Country For Old Men, however, we would all probably look just as psycho as he did in that film. The ultimate irony of Nemo is that before he was unable to make a decision because he didn’t know what would happen. Now that he knows what will happen, he is still unable to make a choice.

www.frankcervi.com

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70 Comments Add yours

  1. Colonel Muttonfield says:

    You make good points but I think you stopped too soon. There is so much missed. The meaning of it all is revealed when Old Nemo declares that “every path is the right path.” This is clearly the way the 9 year old Nemo resolves his impossible dilemma. In fact, one might say that the entire moving takes place in that uncertain second in which Nemo leaps for the departing train. Does he make it? The movie hints that he did not and must live with his delay in making a decision. Had he decided immediately when asked which parent to live with, he would have chosen his own path. Yet, he delays. This brief delay made him miss the train and set the path of his life. In his mind, through his alter-ego, he comes to peace with the outcome. In that epiphany, he realizes that the path he went was as valuable as the path he lost. It was also the right one. Old Nemo’s epiphany clearly makes this the “best day of [his] life.” This peace is signified by his dying which is followed by the rebirth of the “Big Crunch.” I think that’s the lesson to the viewer as well: “things work out in the end.” Perhaps there is a bit of fatalism in that. But perhaps there is some wisdom too. If only we could all have such peace.

    1. JonRuff says:

      This was excellently written. Thank you for expanding on this already fantastic article.

      I recently found out about Mr Nobody on iMDB and watched it on Netflix two nights in a row. Never before have I been so wrapped in and involved in a movie. I really cannot even begin to describe how this movie makes me feel but one thing is certain; it gets me thinking, a lot.

      I lot of it seem almost like immature thoughts. Thoughts like “Are we real”, ” Exist in time and space”, etc.

      1. CF says:

        Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and adding to the dialogue. This movie essentially raps humility around the viewer and makes one feel very humble in our existence. I think that is what people feel when they see this film, it hits us at the core of ourselves. It asks very simple questions like you have mentioned yet at the same time makes those questions seem even larger than us.

    2. CF says:

      You make very good points Colonel Muttonfield. It is indeed a long film and so it should be. I could have touched on more if I could, but I like to write most times in a way that lets the reader play a part in thinking about the stuff I left out intentionally or unintentionally, thus spuring a conversation. I agree that this specific scene in the film was most definitely one that emphasised one of the films major themes ( i believe it had many). There is so much going on in this movie that one should definitely take the time to watch it multiple times. Its like an onion, with every view there is another layer to be peeled, dissected and digested.

    3. Pagan Fairy says:

      What went running around in my brain is, he had 2 paths to choose from: go with mother or stay with father. In the flashbacks and flashforwards, there was a third story! This was the story of him travelling on the train, longhaired and bearded. Caring for the homeless woman. In this third path, Anna waited for him and he waited for her. In the end they found eachother at the lightning house. He chose not to follow his mom or stay with his dad. In the end, after seeing what either paths would lead to. Happiness, but also death and sorrow. He chose to take the third path, the one he didn’t play in his mind and thus: new. Like the old Nemo said: maybe we are a fantasy of a 9 year old boy.

      1. Joyjoy says:

        The third story is him not making a choice, so how can he be reunited with Anna if he decides to not make a choice at 9 years old? He really fell in love with Anna during the Mother’s possibility and they promised to wait for each other. This movie boggles my mind!

  2. Gautam says:

    I think that, which ever choice you make, you end up being at the same place.
    Like in the movie, whatever choice Nemo made, we ended up with Anna somehow one way or the other.
    Whatever route you take, you end up at the same destination.

  3. Melanie says:

    Am I the only person that caught the insinuation that Nemo was a Godlike figure? He was blessed by the “Angels of Oblivion” in the very beginning, and was the only mortal alive at the time of Collapse. Therefore, wouldn’t that leave him flinging back and forth in an eternal cycle of following the Collapse to singularity, the Big Bang, and then Expanse, over and over again? He will always be.

    1. Anonymous says:

      You need to watch the movie again

  4. Christian Bale played the lead character in American Psycho.

  5. Ah nevermind Jared Leto was also in it. Duh!

  6. TJayeTAYLOR says:

    Reblogged this on TJayeTAYLOR the Artist and commented:
    This movie was amazing and it was exactly what I needed to watch! The explanation here is on point as well. Definitely makes you think: “The ultimate irony of Nemo is that before he was unable to make a decision because he didn’t know what would happen. Now that he knows what will happen, he is still unable to make a choice.”

  7. TJayeTAYLOR says:

    Superb and excellent explanation.

  8. Qwakey says:

    I dont often leave comments but this movie honestly might be my favorite movie of all time. I got high as fuck and was so mind blown that I had to stop watching. That’s my only regret, that i wasn’t able to watch this movie in one sitting. Damnnnn I have to watch this again shittttt too bad I get fucking distracted when I’m high plus I dont remember the first part of the movie dammnnnnnnn No for real this movies some good shit like the shit about string theory and then big crunch that shit was trippy time going backlfdjgoifon jf damn i was spleeikngmg pretty goood for a lottel whijle and im sorry for thies comment you dont hajve to read buit if you are i thank oyu hit me fuck it imm a do something spontaneious hit me up my numba is 5203000690 fuck it i mean i want somethijng trippy to happen to me yo but for real text me if you want to have an interesting conversation about life shit im one of those people who is constanly thinkong and pondering life, reality i dont fucking know everything the universe just is so confusing how do we as humans know anything at all like damn this crazy but yeah this is what happens when i get really high so yeah….. normallty im pretty reserved in real life if you knew me in real life you p fuck i just realized that this comment might seem prettty stuoid to sober peoplle oh well fuck it damn i didnt plan di dpofeppwpo im to gone o h jm pipsdppdi fdi dudmd

    1. hgbfvdc says:

      i want to talk with you about life, with a blunt or somthinggggg yo catchn ot it. put me sometghing and i would contact it would be funny thog

    2. 3 says:

      I was reading this while also being high and i couldn’t stop laughing :’) hahahaha

      1. may says:

        lmaooooo too funny

    3. i am here if you want to have that kind of conversations.

  9. Neal says:

    . Basically what I see is a human who is luckily enough to die exactly the momentthe universe reverts and this leads to some sort of phenomena and the irony of the story. In all actuality he is the only one who will live forever. The big bang happens and he lives his life already knowing the previous outcomes gets to the end and the cycle repeats. So people think that he is old and confused , however living aa couple of different lives quite literally would have me a little confused as well . And evidence is where he mistakes the names. The butterfly effect is also a key part of the movie. But all in all he gets to keep living life over with the ability to remember. Did the beings in the beginning forget to touch his lips or like the name of movie says he is nobody because he is the end of the universe so what can he really affect? Also my two cents on the science i feel like living so many times and having info he did he probably had alittle more insight into the whole situation than we all think. Cool movie

  10. Gabi says:

    Dear Frank,
    I absolutely love this review and your thoughts on the film. I was wondering if you could do post a list of films you found alike to this one in depth, and appeal?!

    Also, I would recommend that you check out (and hopefully make a review) the film “The fountain” by Darren Aronofsky! It is a personal favorite of mine, and it would be interesting to see what your personal thoughts on the film are!

    Amazing job with this blog, keep up the great work!

    All the best,
    Gabi

    1. AKASH GUPTA says:

      hey gabi thanks for that the movie recomdation u gave to neal……. the fountain awesome movie …can u recommend me some movie like mr. nobody and the fountain ….. which makes u mind twist … ??

      1. KosenDog says:

        Gabi, if you are looking for similar films to Mr Nobody, try Pi, it’s a lot darker mind you.

        I loved the prank suicide bits when Nemo was living with his mother – that had to be a nod to ‘Harold and Maude’, it’s a bit dated but a quirky film and well worth a watch.

        Other films that would be in the same shelf as this would be The Jacket, Cypher and Jacob’s Ladder.

    2. CF says:

      Gabi,

      Thanks for the comment and compliment. A movie that is sort of along the lines would be Waking Life (2001). Its not a big Hollywood production film but it is based in the same type of conversational philosophy. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is also a good related film.

  11. Scott says:

    A scene to note was when Elise left Nemo and began working in the salon. She sits there, fantasizing over her high school crush Stefano when he walks in, receives a cut, and she doesn’t even realize it. He attempts to pay with card, maybe prompting Elise to see his name, but Nemo rewrites the scene somehow, and Stefano pays with cash. Elise is clueless that was the man she was obsessing over for years.

    Can anyone explain what was meant when Nemo “rewrote” the scene?

    1. Jack says:

      I would have to say it goes back to the whole infinite possibilities before a choice is made.. all the hope and excitement of what Could Be, is gone once the choice is made and/or the situation actually occurs.
      and with Elise’s very unstable manic-depression.. to be pining her every hope and dream on Stephano one day loving her – to have her come face to face with him and the reality that no, her dreams and desires for a life with him were definitely not going to be
      I’m thinking that would have been too much for her to handle.
      So out of those choices the kindest was for him to pay with nameless-cash and Elise to return to her chair and day dreams. To have her keep that Hope intact and not to destroy it with a reality-punch straight to the heart.
      Before she could hardly get out of bed.. and there she not just up but wsell-groomed and working and even had a little smile of hope.

      Thanks for your post as I had missed that interaction entirely the first time around!

  12. montezpierreantoine says:

    Thanks. Excellent explanations

    1. Anonymous says:

      swag

  13. mayramm says:

    I saw the movie as not really being about choices, because no matter the choice, every alternative plays out anyway, and we always end up in the reality in which we’re alive.

    In the father’s reality, Nemo picks him. In the mothers reality, Nemo picks her. In another reality, he picks neither, but in the end, it didn’t matter, because whether he married Anna, Elise, or the other one, the roads all converged at the same place: with him not dying, because in his reality the big crunch happened. Or maybe there is no death and the big crunch happens in all our times.

    The movie is about quantum theory, string theory, chaos, parallel universes, tesseracts, time and the possibility that our reality is nothing more than words in someone else’s novel or a child’s imagination, or even a video game like The Sims where cars might all be the same color, streets rebuildable, where cities vanish and blocks come apart (which scientists are actually trying to determine right now, the computer sim theory).

    I loved it.

  14. Dylan says:

    I just watched this movie last night when I was already uninterested with what I was doing at the moment and extremely tired. However this movie kept me intrigued and I could not stop watching it. One of the bigger reasons I liked it was I am a huge Jared Leto fan whether it comes to his acting or music. All in all this movie has somewhat changed my view on life or else I would not be searching for more information about the movie and posting a comment to this site. I loved the movie and I will watch it again looking for more intricate details of certain situations that could have altered his path.

  15. jmyrayeung says:

    This blog had the best review. I have to say, you definitely got a good grip on the whole movie and managed to get a lot great comments below.

    I read the yahoo blog and the best comment is that he didn’t exist.

    From what I gathered was that there are so many choices and so many opportunities. I almost believe that this movie is about pretty much “what if god were one of us”. After my whole deduction phase, I can say that Nemo does not exist and exists at the same time. The movie discusses all the different realities that he goes through and shows that both the big bang exists and the big crunch exists.

    Where is Anna in the future? Jeanette? Elise? Did they all die before him? His room is simply the room of an architect’s. Where are his children? Do they exist?

    Make the right choice for yourself and make sure the others reciprocate, or else you’ll just making someone else happy. Many of the lives Nemo lives is because he is caught with guilt and intention to appease the other person such as his father, mother, elise, and jeannette. He is truly happy and comes to realization at the specific time once he realizes that he needs to make himself happy and truly be happy, not trapped, but rather freed. That is when everyone else is freed to love again.

    —————–> “The movie also flirts with the notion that humans are born with the hidden knowledge of their lives and that it may be possible to access these “future memories”. The only way I can explain the concept of “future memories” is through the example of déjà vu. We have all had this happen to us at one point in our lives- the seeing of future events or instances prior to them even occurring.” <—————–

    You will always be you. you will always hold on to something to try to be you. you will always question if you are still you. losing yourself is the worst thing of all. that is why we try to hold on to ourselves. that is why we will know what to predict because we know ourself better than anyone knows us. in our memory, we are inherently storing and maintaining the best state we can to plan the best life possible for ourself. That is why we will be able to see the future. I feel as though we dream about many futures and when get deja vu, it is the one future we end up picking. There may have been so many foreshadowing moments, but end up aligning to one of the moments. It can be luck, it can be fate, but fate and luck are so intertwined that we may often confuse the two. Unless we can see the science behind every decision we make, we can say it is fate or it is luck, but we can say that it happened.

  16. Maligo says:

    nice number 123-581-1321…
    think about it. if you understand ofc

    1. mayramm says:

      Did I miss something? Was the Fibonacci sequence somewhere in the movie? Oh, darn, guess I’ll just have to watch it again!

  17. Anonymous says:

    Thank you this was so helpful for understanding this great movie

  18. Eva says:

    “What will happen in time? Will it reverse? No one knows the answer.” After watching this I immediately thought “Nobody knows the answer.” He knew the answers all along because he had already lived it. Very confusing movie but damn it’s the best i have ever seen

  19. Mitchell Payne says:

    Just some food for thought. Anna throughout the film was wearing red, which symbolizes love. Jean is wearing yellow, which symbolizes greed, and Elise is wearing blue which symbolizes depression. I don’t know if that is relevant or not but I found it interesting

  20. Loved it.. I didn’t see it as being about choice because choice implies choosing different pathways. From a higher dimensional quantum perspective there was in fact only one life lived, merely reflected through the infinite fractal of existence ( all lives were “right” all paths the “right path”) in the end the old man was in fact self observing his life as “the cat in the box” (Schrödinger) it was his observation that ultimitly collapsed the wave function from “many worlds” to one world and death and the reversal of entropy. The time lines were not memories or seperated paths but coexisting similtanious
    Existence that we’re operating concurrently with the “old mans” observation of them. The old man and the young boy were the nodes at “opposite” ends of linear time and in fact faced exactly the same predicerment, past became future became past…(the reversal of the arrow of time,entropy)

    In the true spirit of quantum paradox the young boy and the old man could experience multiple existences and just one existence (the collapsed wave function) at the same time ! With each returning to the opposite node or singularity( birth/death) hence once the old man made the observation of his lives, his apparent “current” existence/ reality ceased to “exist” (he peeked in the box and caused the cat to be “alive” or “dead”) up until that point the “cat” (his timelines) had existed as both alive AND dead ( all realities equally valid/right/the path)

    Dam.. So actually it did come down to a choice, but was it 1 choice or many ?

    Reading any of these topics helps to see this film in a different light….
    Many worlds hypothesis, Schrödinger’s cat, the observer and the observed, quantum non locality
    The arrow of time, the butterfly effect, chaos theory,consciousness and time

    Right up there with Predestination !! Which was a serious head do !! Lol

    1. Dem24 says:

      I like your interpretation very much, it’s just that I do not really understand what you meant by saying that the old man and the young boy were the nodes at “opposite” ends of linear time. And how exactly do you argue with him just living one life? Could you maybe explain your point?
      I appreciate, thanks ! 🙂

  21. owlgz says:

    Reblogged this on Issues.

  22. I watched the movie yesterday for the first time, and today again, and I am very glad I found this blog, and I have enjoyed reading the post and the comments. I live in the south with no one to have this kind of conversation about this ass kicking movie. I wish you were all my drink buddies and we could meet and watch the movie together and discuss it. Goddess bless the internets!

  23. Anonymous says:

    ah…Fibonacci sequence, of course!~

  24. MONICA says:

    I AM GOING TO WATCH IT A FEW MORE TIMES.. IT WAS A MOVIE THAT MADE YOU TRY TO UNDERSTAND A CONCEPT THAT WASN’T THERE..

  25. angie says:

    does anyone know whats the meaning of the pool? he mentions that he had always loved pools, but he had never learned to swimm…

    1. KosenDog says:

      Could it be that before he was born the Children of Oblivion were all in a swimming pool?

  26. Anonymous says:

    start getting laid and smoke pot at the age of 15 cause life is a playground.

  27. Joy says:

    The third possibility at the end of the movie is not making a choice, so how can he be reunited with Anna if he decides to not make a choice at 9 years old? He fell in love with Anna while living with his mother since Anna was the boyfriend’s daughter, when they decided to separate, Anna and Nemo promised to wait for each other, THEN they met at the train station at he waited for heron the bench at the lighthouse. So if the lighthouse scrbe happened during the mother’s timeline, then how can the same lighthouse scene occur if he didn’t make a choice at 9 and didn’t go with his mother to fall in lpve with Anna in the first place? This movie boggles my mind!

    1. Dale says:

      Once we lose the ability to make a decision the game is over. As it said on the air bag in his car “game over”. Thats the moment he died. He realized this and his life started over to the point where he didnt chose either parent and took a third path to start a new game only on the same board. Same board meaning chosing the same parents. Chess in itself is perdicting the future in the way of playing the game in your head even before you make the first move. He drew the circle on the boardwalk knowing she would land there at some point. It just took a series of moves and hardships to accomplish it. In the end he took the queen.

      1. CF says:

        I like the angle you have going on here Dale. I hadn’t thought of it exactly like that. Life is like a game of chess where you as the user or player can make calculated moves in order to move within the system. Chess like society is a system to which can have a predictable formula. Once we lose or give up our power to be our own king we then become a pawn and allow ourselves to be moved throughout the game and sacrificed. There is great power in choice. However what true choices do we really have if the game is the same but the players change?

    2. KosenDog says:

      You forget the scene before Anna appeared in the circle, the brown leaf (that made several appearances) was blown there by the younger Nemo, after he found Anna sitting on the end of the pontoon – he fell for Anna on the beach, when he admitted to her that he couldn’t swim.

  28. m x d says:

    dude I watched this after I got high as fuck and it fucked me up, I don’t even know if I’m living life right now or if im dreaming. life is crazy.

    1. CF says:

      This movie is amazing sober, being high for it would definitely be a trip. In a way, the film and the way it is sequenced almost seams like a dream. You know how in your dreams sometimes the transitions can be quick and confusing, but it all connects somehow in your mind. Sometimes we start the dream in one setting then SNAP, we are in a different part of town, a different world, a certain time period or in a bizarre role.

  29. Jeff says:

    Loved this movie. 3 questions:
    Why did sunlight hurt the wive’s eyes?

    Why was his dad an invalid?

    He predicts Anna’s dad would be hit by a train. Was there any truth to him predicting the future?

    I’m sure there’s more. I’ve only watched it once.

    1. MYB says:

      1. The wives claiming that the sunlight hurt their eyes was probably in fact true at least for the wives, it was Sunny. But the purpose behind them
      Both saying it, was used as a clue to trigger Nemo to somehow knowing he heard that before in a very real sense. It almost helped to directly tie Nemo’s dream (or past life) to his then present one with Joan.

      2. I don’t remember the invalid part but although the movie does tease the notion that he was never born. I would have to argue he was born of the mother and the father we see in the film.

      3. While there may be no apparent truth to that statement, it was the young Nemo’s way of expressing what he believes was seeing in the future. Which we later learn that he does see the other lifelines in his dreams as he at one point wakes up to the shock of his hand burning when he is older in one of his dreams. We can understand why he was saying that because in an alternate timeline that scenario may have existed, but it appears that like the other dream he had about his other future self, that had no bearing on that story line itself.

  30. Roy Esparza says:

    So I’m going to talk about the big crunch. The way they speak about how it happens doesn’t follow thier own logic. They say the big bang happens, everything starts to expand into infinity I’m following all up till that pont. My questions is how does it reverse? Once something expands it only gals back towards the gravity, for example if a vase breaks an shatters it’s pieces don’t follow the same path back at the point at which it broke. It just starts to fall towards the center of gravity. That’s my only thought about this movie that doesn’t make sense.

    1. MYB says:

      Interesting point certainly, but what they are arguing in fact as one of the Nemo’s says is that who knows what would happen to time if the Big Crunch did occur. And then, Hollywood conjectured that time would go in reverse as opposed to gravity simply moving the other way.

  31. MYB says:

    I read most of the reviews and believe that there are some very good points being made. I don’t believe this theory has been presented yet, and after watching the movie a number of times I have concluded on a rationale and idea behind the film.

    It is my belief that over the course of the movie the viewer is in fact seeing a recounting of his many lives as we watch his most recent life in which he is 117 years old and reminiscing on his past experiences. I believe there is a substantial amount of evidence in the film that points torwards this conclusion. Disclaimer: this is going to be quite long but I think it clears up a lot of the film.

    To preface, I did see a few comments stating that he has been uniquely experiencing the reversal and progression of time over and over thus leading to the many time lines. I agree with most of this concept. Let’s look at the evidence to support this:

    – we see throughout the movie short documentary type segments where Nemo in one of his lives presents to us the idea of time, and a number of other complex scientific arguments about humanity in general as his role nearly is characterized as some sort of professor or leader in the scientific community. These short scenes introducing such concepts act as subtle clues as to the theory behind how all of these realities may in fact have happened. It is almost as if the character himself, as he presents this documentary style information, subconciously or unknowingly is expressing the reasoning for having many different life timelines. This theory is then confirmed as we see Nemo referencing the reversal of time as told to him by Anna on Mars. (He does this by 1. One of his other timelines watches his near current timeline of his older self talking about that specific date in a strange older house 2. As he looks at the clock in present time in the future) and his understanding of that event confirms his having lived or perceiving to have lived multiple timelines.

    Moreover, maybe the largest clue for this theory is his constant waking up from his other lives and having a slight uneasiness in his current life as he vaguely remembers parts of his other lives. This is shown in his constant saying his other lovers names when waking up with his current wife in whichever timeline. Furthermore, in a timeline with his Wife Joan by the pool he wrote a letter describing that he understands every move in life and every move to come and it has bored him. One user mentioned that this is indicative of a sort of deja vu. But also, this idea of thinking his future is written or he knows his every move further enhances the idea that he has lived multiple realities or lives. It is important to note too that in all of those lives, he is unsure or uncertain of what he is thinking or why he is thinking such vivid memories of other pasts ( as we see present in his dreams).

    Further, at one point we see the near homeless looking Nemo draw a circle near the light tower where he is waiting for Anna. This indicates that his character understands somehow that in that very spot something will happen. It’s almost as if his brain is telling him that that spot is important, yet he has no understanding as to why. There is a string of religious thought that follows a similar ideal that a person’s soul is traveling through time maturing along the way, being placed into different lifestyles and people, as each person lives there life and dies, in order to further their spiritual journey. (I will link the book name that talks about this religious idea at the bottom). This concept is very similar in that Nemo continually lives lifetimes over and over learning slowly along the way.

    Nemo later on in the movie is seen seeing visions of his other self as he is in the plad world where everyone has red cars, he sees the near homeless Nemo who he chased through a building to an alternate reality thereby opening his mind to the concept of not being real or being a figment of imagination or life.

    This realization culminates when Anna eventually steps into the circle in one timeline, he follows his other self in another timeline, and his waking up in the bath tub in another timeline (and subsequently being shot dead presumably). At these points, the viewer can assume that Nemo is beginning to understand more about his previous lives and begins to link them to a central theory. This theory is then expanded on by the present day 117 year old Nemo in the future who has made the large realization that he does (which I will get to in a moment). The movie then ends up in the reminiscing perspective of present day old-Nemo as he thinks on his past.

    Therefore, the viewer is told to assume that Nemo has in fact lived multiple lives. ln each of the lives he makes different decisions as we see in the film, and with the concept of the reversal and progression of time over and over, he begins to develop more and more while still having memories of each of these other timelines that he has lived. Eventually, comes to understand his epiphany or at least share it with the viewers in his interview with the young journalist.

    This epiphany is essentially the meaning behind the movie and the message to be conveyed.

    Nemo shares the big concept that the journalist and himself may in fact not be real but an imagination of a child. Now in my opinion this is more symbolic than anything else but I have two theories.

    1. This representation of reality through a child’s perspective is used in order to state that whatever path, regardless of the outcome, the viewer is making the correct decision. This concept can be expanded upon by Nemo’s fascination with fate and chance. (This is a doozy but break it down) The concept that making a decision and not making a decision are in fact both great decisions that are always the right decision leads the viewer to believe that life is uncertainty at its very core, and to claim one ever made a wrong decision would be ridiculous. Nemo shows, all decisions have their good and bad attached and near similar outcomes as far as human development goes.

    2. Or in the much more literal sense, we see that all of the scenarios that played out in the film are in fact the inner workings of a boys mind who is stuck making the decision to be with his mom or his dad. These realities are all just play throughs that happen in the boys head as he is thinking about his choices. This is very similar to if you were weighing your outcomes of your picking one school or another or a brand of milk at the grocery store and then playing the outcome in your head until death, running that back to the beginning and picking the other route to see what that outcome was (we’ve all done this hypothetical what if). This theory has some grounds since the movie does use imagery with the leaf, the droplet of rain, and the idea of slippery slope reasoning to convey the butterfly effect, which is essentially what every single one of Nemo’s lifelines is based off of. He makes one small change and watches the change grow into a completely different future. So essentially, he is allowing his childhood mind to create many lifelines that aren’t actually happening but are possible realities given he chooses to go with his mom or dad as determined by the boy.

    Both of these scenarios play on the concept of decisions though which is the primary reason for the movie it seems as I explained somewhat in Nemo’s epiphany 1.

    Extra tidbit:
    The fact that he states at the end of the film Anna’s name and ultimately truly seems happy in the only relationship with Anna throughout the movie seems to me that if he did live any of those lives, it was the one in which he was with Anna or at least dreamed of Anna and lived the reality of a man in a struggling relationship. At any rate, the life with Anna is the one he wanted to live, or possibly live again as another opportunity in the future (or reverse to the past).

  32. You said at the end of the post: “Now that he knows what will happen, he is still unable to make a choice”.
    It’s not true!!! He blows on the leaf that cause his mother and father to know each other (yes, it’s the same leaf at the beginning of the movie)! In other words, he decide to create his own destiny! Very beautiful meaning, my god what a beautiful movie!

    1. Thanks for pointing me out about the leaf! It makes sense now and such a logical conclusion additionally turns the movie into that very beautiful one you are talking about.:)

  33. Dee says:

    Amaxing review/explanation. Thanks!

  34. rivaldo van rooy says:

    I am still confused but there a lot missing

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