Nell | Chicago Reader

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Playing a contemporary southern “wild child” who grew up in the wilderness with limited human contact, Jodie Foster seems so determined to win her third Oscar that there are moments when you want to give it to her just so she'll leave you alone—especially when the movie seems to be going out of its way to remind you of The Accused. But insofar as one can forget all this huffing and puffing and get involved in the story—adapted by William Nicholson and Mark Handley from Handley's play Idioglossia—this is a touching and often involving variation on the theme of Truffaut's The Wild Child about what constitutes “civilization” and why, with more emphasis given in this case to the motives of a humane doctor (Liam Neeson) and an ambitious psychologist (Natasha Richardson) who try to come to terms with this mysterious individual. Michael Apted directed, somewhat unevenly, but with a fine sense of the North Carolina locations, and Dante Spinotti's cinematography is excellent (1994). With Richard Libertini, Nick Searcy, Robin Mullins, and Jeremy Davies.

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