Reviewed by: John Dickerson
Talk about not being “conformed to the world!” Such is this film’s title character, Nell, a mysterious twenty-something year old woman raised in isolation somewhere in the backwoods of North Carolina. “Discovered” after her mother’s death, Nell (Jodie Foster) is termed to be some sort of “wild child” who has a language seemingly all her own. Throughout the course of the film, Nell’s background and motivations are gradually revealed as she is observed and taught by a sensitive local doctor and a clinical psychologist.
For Christians, this film is yet another mixed bag in terms of very powerful elements on both ends of the Biblical spectrum. The Scriptures themselves play a key role, as the title character says, “It’s got answers for Nell.” She also protests, when her family Bible is taken away, “The Word of the Lord gone away!” As a means of comfort, she is read the Song of Solomon. In a moving speech, Nell observes, “Everyone’s frightened everywhere… the sweet Lord soothes our tears.” The beauty of God’s creation and the value of being quiet and looking into each other’s eyes are promoted in contrast to a world “filled with evildoers” and “big things.”
God’s people, however, may struggle with putting some downright evil images before their eyes. Chief among the sinful scenes is an awkward display of nudity and crude language as some local heathen take advantage of Nell’s naiveté. There are also scenes of skinny-dipping, premarital intimacy, instruction in “making love,” and talk of divorce, as well as several profanities. The threat of violence being done against Nell is an undercurrent throughout the movie.
While the so-called “wise” of the world learn important lessons from Nell’s “simple” lifestyle, the graphic portrayal of worldly devices makes Nell hard to recommend for believers desiring to keep their hearts pure before the Lord.
Year of Release—1994