Nell (1994) - Rotten Tomatoes

Nell (1994)



Critic 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.

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Movie Info

The dilemmas involved in socializing a socially isolated individual are explored in this moving drama set in the Smokey mountains. Nell is not a "feral" child. She lived an isolated life in a remote mountain cabin beside a quiet lake with her mother, a hermit who suffered a series of strokes. She is discovered by Jerome Lovell, a doctor, who begins to observe her in secret. He is intrigued by her strange language which was influenced by her mother's aphasia. He is also intrigued by her hostile behavior when she is faced with strangers. His observations are interrupted by the intrusion of psychologist Paula Olsen. Together they work towards socializing Nell with the sad realization that their actions will steal Nell's innocence.

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Liam Neeson
as Jerome Lovell
Natasha Richardson
as Paula Olsen
Richard Libertini
as Alexander Paley
Nick Searcy
as Todd Peterson
Robin Mullins
as Mary Peterson
Jeremy Davies
as Billy Fisher
O'Neal Compton
as Don Fontana
Sean Bridgers
as Mike Ibarra
Stephanie Dawn Wood
as Ruthie Lovell
Mary Lynn Riner
as Janet Baring
Al Wiggins
as Harry Goppel
Beth Bostic
as Jean Malinowski
Dana Stevens
as Rachel Weiss
Nicole Adair
as Autistic Child
Marlon Jackson
as Male Nurse
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News & Interviews for Nell

Critic Reviews for Nell

All Critics (33) | Top Critics (6)

Nell is an effective film, and a moving one. That is largely because of the strange beauty of Jodie Foster's performance as Nell, and the warmth of the performance by Liam Neeson, as a doctor who finds himself somehow responsible for her.

January 1, 2000 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

All of this proves somewhat uplifting and, in the end, fairly moving. Under Apted's caring direction, Foster gives a fearless, appealing, utterly uninhibited performance throughout.

May 22, 2018 | Full Review…

Stunningly awful on almost every level.

January 20, 2007 | Rating: 1/5 | Full Review…

Somber, ponderous, and pretentious, this is a clinical study of a wild woman (Jodie Foster) raised in the backwoods, far from the interference and contamination (according to the film) of Civilization. It's better to see Truffaut's Wild Child.

July 13, 2006 | Rating: C+ | Full Review…

Decent triumph over adversity movie. Nell has a unique disability.

July 14, 2003 | Rating: 3/5

Jodie Foster is totally immersing

April 27, 2003 | Rating: 3/5

Audience Reviews for Nell


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.
Spencer S.

Super Reviewer


Jodie Foster is a great actor. Watch this movie just to see her performance.

Red Lats
Red Lats

Super Reviewer

Not a great movie.

Tim Salmons
Tim Salmons

Super Reviewer

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