Free Writing about Nell


Hello, world! I’ve got lots to tell ya about that I haven’t been able to jot down my narrative of – mainly the “completion” of my autobiography and the JAMA that’s been going on regarding the documentary – but tonight I’m killing two birds with one stone by telling you my concisely convoluted thoughts on a film I recently saw and enjoyed very much, in Psychology class just last week. I might add, Psychology is divided into two semester courses, and I am now beginning Psychology 2.

 And if Psychology 2 is a days-long movie, and this film is the intro, then boy is this going to be worth the popcorn.

“Nell” is a 1994 drama film starring Jodie Foster, Natasha Richardson, and Liam Neeson. The subject of the film is a young girl whose mother has recently died. Her mother was paralyzed on one side of her face, which caused her speech to become distorted, and as she was the one to bring up Nell, Nell took after her mother’s broken English and made it her own language. Dr. Lovell is a bothered soul looking for respite and reconstruction from the big city and from his recent divorce (respectively) in a small suburban town on the outskirts of which Nell lives in isolation from the rest of the world – in a wooden cabin in the middle of the woods, with a beautiful lake that Nell swims in at night. Dr. Lovell, a family doctor, eventually discovers Nell’s situation and is ultimately fascinated by it, and by her.

I’m not going to tell the tale of the movie … instead, only those parts and tidbits necessary to explain my reflections. The movie is truly beautiful, and reading a concise summary on a blog won’t allow you to appreciate it.

Dr. Lovell is a man not in the prime of his life. Yes, he’s middle-aged, but I mean in the sense that he’s not very emotionally apt when we first meet him in the movie. He’s come to this small suburban town, complete with a local sheriff, to seek refuge and hopefully placid self-reconciliation … which in a sense occurs through Nell. You see, when he appears in the film, Dr. Lovell has recently had a divorce … so when he finds Nell and begins to understand her, he sees how she lives far way from everyone, with no real connection to anyone but the faint memories of her deceased twin sister – and doesn’t mind. Putting her speech and learning problems aside, Dr. Lovell finds in Nell what he wants to be, in a sense – an independent, free-spirited soul with no need for anyone else.

That’s not what he ends up being though, because as his appreciation for Nell grows, he develops an affinity to her. Not a romantic one, of course – that instead occurs with the co-worker he soon gets on the project: Dr. Paula Olsen. She is a psychologist whom at first wants to take Nell into a laboratory for testing … but gradually begins to understand her, through Dr. Lovell in a sense. They both develop a parental endearment to her … camping out on a “big-business-provided” boat that Paula is given for three months, to carry out observations of Nell.

And what I find in Nell is, besides an interesting, well-constructed character whose feelings and emotions surface well above her impairments … is a soul very much in touch with the world. Throughout the movie, her appreciation for the most beautiful things in human nature – “dancing in the wind”, swimming in the lake, love, friendship – she’s very much unlike everyone else.

In other words, ignoring her obvious physical differences to everyone else in the movie due to her condition, she’s very unlike everyone else in that she doesn’t understand the concept of a routine, she doesn’t understand the concept of a nine to five job, of big buildings – of bad people. She lives in a fantasy world of sorts …

and frankly sometimes I think living in that kind of fantasy world wouldn’t hurt one bit.