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movie review out of 4 Movie Review: Nell

Starring: Jodie Foster, Liam Neeson
Director: Michael Apted
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 113 Minutes
Release Date: December 1994
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Natasha Richardson, Richard Libertini, Nick Searcy, Robin Mullins, Jeremy Davies, O'Neal Compton

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Dragan Antulov review follows movie review
2.  Steve Rhodes read the review movie review

Review by Dragan Antulov
1 star out of 4

If we are to believe a character in NELL, 1994 drama directed by Michael Apted, everyone has an ulterior motive, even Mother Theresa. Finding those ulterior motives is difficult and sometimes impossible, but in the case of those who made this film it is rather easy - whole purpose of this endeavour was to bring another Academy Award to its principal actress Jodie Foster.

The plot of this film, based on the play IDIOGLOSSIA by Mark Handley, begins in the remote backwoods of North Carolina. A woman who lived her most of her life in a remote cabin has died and country doctor Jerome Lovell (played by Liam Neeson) discovers her daughter Nell (played by Jodie Foster). Young woman has been taught to hide from the world and it seems that she has never seen another human being apart from her mother. Since the mother suffered a speech-impairing stroke, Nell never learned to speak proper English and instead developed unintelligible language of her own. Authorities, represented by psychologist Dr. Paula Olsen (played by Natasha Richardson), are convinced that Nell can't function in outside world and that her interests would be best served if she is institutionalised. Lovell thinks that she should remain free and manages to delay court decision for three months. In that period both Lovell and Olsen must observe Nell in her natural surroundings and present their findings to the court. Lovell tries to use this as an opportunity to decipher Nell's language and finally establish proper communication.

The plot of NELL deals with very intriguing subject - role of the society and civilisation in forming human mind. Previously this subject was tackled by such great directors like Francois Truffaut and Werner Herzog. British director Michael Apted is not exactly in their league, but his career indicates that he is capable of making decent film out of this material. Unfortunately, he was not capable of compensating the inadequacy of William Nicholson's script. The script, same as anything else in the film, was subjected to the single purpose - create as many opportunities as possible for Jodie Foster to show her ability to portray socially handicapped character. Because of that, the movie is stuffed with scenes in which Foster talks gibberish or lives in her own private world. Naturally, those scenes last too long and Foster, despite all of her talent, becomes irritating after a while. The plot that is supposed to wrap up this character is even worse, filled with all Hollywood cliches that culminate in the corny and quite predictable finale. The only thing that makes this film watchable is a splendid photography by Dante Spinotti that captures natural beauties of North Carolina. But those lovely sights are hardly a reason for viewers to spend almost two hours of their life to watch this single- purpose (and failed) effort.

Copyright 2001 Dragan Antulov

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