Though certainly not a 'great' film in any way, "Nell" is probably an ideal film to be shown on Sociology classes. It's a tale about the eponymous girl who was raised in extreme isolation, talking in unfinished old English, and often initially mistaken to be inflicted with mental retardation. Jodie Foster(in perfect Oscar-bait mode) gave a very believable, often unrecognizable rendition of her, stripping of the intelligence, psychology and measured calculations of Clarice Starling(a role that launched her A-list status in Hollywood) and ably portrayed the deficiency of her actions resulted by lack of social exposure, and the uncommon depths and purity of her heart brought forth by not being able to do so.
Liam Neeson was quite good(though a bit stiff, I may say) as the concerned Dr. Lovell, a character that, along with Nell herself, formed the film's primary emotional connection whose slow development was very prevalent throughout. Yes, "Nell" is a pure tear-jerker for the easily touched, but for the more experienced film-goer that has gone through and endured so much Hollywood cheese, 'tears' is never impossible, but an almost otherworldly 'sob' is quite pushing it. Which brings me to my personal conflict as to "what will be the real reason if ever I let out a tear for the film?" Will it be the penetrating human drama displayed? Or will it be a genuine thump into my heart regarding Liam Neeson's struggles to cope up with her real-life wife Natasha Richardson's(who played Paula Olsen in the film) untimely death? Seeing them all happy and hugging and kissing each other in the film makes me lean on the latter more.
"Nell" isn't just about Nell herself and her subsequent integration into mainstream reality. At some point, it's also about the doctors themselves. And as what Richard Libertini's character Dr. Paley stated(a quote that lingered with me long after the film has ended): "Even caring has an ulterior motive". Beyond all our aspirations to help others, to give meaning to other less fortunate people's lives, is an unconscious, buried search for our own and an impulse to internally conform with how other people may view us. Dr. Paley followed it up with the claim that even Mother Teresa's unconditional caring in Calcutta is truly a mission for her existential re-assurance. That may be debatable, but the film's clear and considerable articulacy of the sociological human condition clearly isn't.