Director: Michael Apted
Starring: Liam Neeson, Jodie Foster, Natasha Richardson
Friday night movie nights were a childhood family tradition. We would make popcorn, walk to the store, buy Skittles and M&Ms, and rent a random movie that seemed interesting. In this way I was introduced to different directors, actors, genres, and the world of film in general. And yet, as an adult, I have learned that my taste is very unlike that of my parents. Films such as Rob Roy and A River Runs Through It were seen as flops by my family, and I thought the same until I watched them again. Then I realized that I was just too young to understand that those films were my style, even if they were not my parents’. Nell, apparently, fits into that category; a film that my parents didn’t like, and so neither did I, at least until I grew up.
Set in the backwoods of North Carolina, this emotionally draining drama revolves around the title character, Foster (The Accused, The Silence of the Lambs), who lives such a secluded life that she has never seen a human being other than her deceased family, and who speaks her own distinct language. When local doctor Neeson (Schindler’s List, Love Actually) discovers the young woman, she becomes exposed to a world that she never knew existed; one that is both frightening and yet full of beauty.
Regardless of having seen this film before, I was able to watch it with an open mind, as I didn’t really remember anything about it other than the fact that my parents didn’t like it. Well, this time, I did. After about the first half an hour of story building and cheesy 90s lines, I began to be sucked in. The story was both beautiful and mesmerizing, revealing layer after to layer of meaning and introspection. The acting, as well, was excellent, allowing the made-up language, which at first came off as a little silly, to become believable and comfortable. By the end, I felt as if I understood Nell, and, cliche or not, as if she weren’t that different after all.
Although the story may seem a little outrageous, the point of the film was relatively simple, and any oddities became commonplace rather quickly. Strip away the ‘wild child’ and you’re left with a film that is basically telling a story that has been told before, and yet is continually ignored. Nell is often described as a ‘tearjerker’, and, although I didn’t cry, I was moved by this film. It meant something; something clear and universal and true. Perhaps not everyone hears it, but the message is there if you can just listen.
My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰