Wednesday, December 24, 2014


Movie Name: Nell
Year of Release: 1994
Director: Michael Apted
Stars: Jodie Foster, Liam Neeson, Natasha Richardson, Richard Libertini, Nick Searcy, Robin Mullins, Jeremy Davies, Sean Bridgers, Joe Inscoe
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

Michael Apted's "Nell" premiered in 1994, following his previous acclaimed features "Thunderheart", "Class Action" and "Gorillas in the Mist". The film is based on the stage play by Mark Handley, and follows the story of Nell, a young woman who has been raised in the woods by her speech impaired mother, completely isolated from any other human contact. When her mother dies, Nell is found out by a local doctor, who is fascinated by her specific language, but who wants to keep her in her house and surroundings. Nell soon finds herself the target of more attention, namely from a psychology student by the name of Paula Olsen who wants to see Nell observed from a more clinical perspective. These two factions come a halt when a judge orders Nell to be contained in a medical facility for close observation and understand her mental capacity.
Michael Apted has been an interesting director throughout most of career - he has forged a path simultaneously focused on documentary features, alongside more commercial endeavors such as "Coal Miner's Daughter", "Gorky Park" and the James Bond film "The World is Not Enough" to name but a few. "Nell" was a special project for him, since it was a project developed by Jodie Foster, who was the producer and who also intended to direct, but who later decided to opt out of the director's chair. Michael Apted wisely lets the film be an exploration of a character that is unique, someone who is deeply immersed in a universe of their own, and for whom the entire world is filled with strangeness and bizarre behaviors. The film falters towards the end, when it plays the character almost as a simpleton savant, but for the most part, it's a character study for a woman whose fear has always been of not being able to connect and ultimately be alone. Jodie Foster is fantastic in the central role, giving the character an inner life and a motivation that is touching - her interactions with Liam Neeson are equally affecting and emotionally resonant. The cinematography from Dante Spinotti is stunning, as is the score from Mark Isham. A good film always worth watching.