Nell

Critics Consensus

Despite a committed performance by Jodie Foster, Nell opts for ponderous melodrama instead of engaging with the ethical dilemmas of socializing its titular wild child.

55%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 33

64%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 37,615

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Movie Info

Cut off from the modern world, Nell (Jodie Foster) is a wild child, who has lived her entire life with her mother in an isolated mountain cabin in North Carolina. When her mother dies, she is found by kindly Dr. Jerome Lovell (Liam Neeson), who is fascinated by Nell and the language she has developed. Lovell and the equally curious psychologist Dr. Paula Olsen (Natasha Richardson) eventually camp out near Nell's cabin, slowly introducing her to the larger world she's never known.

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Critic Reviews for Nell

All Critics (33) | Top Critics (5) | Fresh (18) | Rotten (15)

Audience Reviews for Nell

  • Jan 20, 2014
    Not one of Foster's best pieces of work. I think the Academy nod was given in appreciation for one of the best actors of the decade but Foster has done much more compelling things both before and afterwards.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Feb 20, 2011
    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.
    Ivan D Super Reviewer
  • Nov 06, 2010
    This movie was so good! Foster was so convincing in her role, and Neeson and Richardson were perfect picks for their characters. It was so touching (and sad at times), and I found myself mesmerized by Foster's character, Nell.
    Erin C Super Reviewer
  • Aug 08, 2010
    How in the hell did Jodie Foster seriously get an Oscar nomination for this, possibly the weirdest film to ever be taken seriously on the public stage? I mean, I get the message of the film overall: the fact that those who are alternative don't stand a chance in a society that prides itself on revealing the hidden truths everywhere they may be hiding. Still, does anyone really want to stand up and say that Foster's performance as the nearly mute, and very animalistic Nell, is great, or even remotely realistic? She looks so hair brained, that a parody performance would be unrecognizable compared to this film. I mean seriously, in what universe is this okay? Liam Neeson and Natasha Richardson make an interesting duo as the scientists who evaluate Nell, but besides that there is no sense, honesty, or truth in any of these performances. It's bland, while also being hyper animated with the feral yowls of its lead, and the strange fight for privacy that stirs the story. Seriously, it's not even good for a bad movie; it's just pure gross cheesiness.
    Spencer S Super Reviewer

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