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Nell (1994)

PG-13 | | Drama | 23 December 1994 (USA)
In a remote woodland cabin, a small town doctor discovers Nell - a beautiful young hermit woman with many secrets.



(play), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
4,135 ( 263)

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 5 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
... Nell
... Jerome Lovell
... Paula Olsen
... Alexander Paley
... Todd Peterson
Robin Mullins ... Mary Peterson
... Billy Fisher
... Don Fontana
Heather M. Bomba ... Twin #1
Marianne E. Bomba ... Twin #2
... Mike Ibarra
... Judge
Stephanie Dawn Wood ... Ruthie Lovell
Mary Lynn Riner ... Janet Baring
Lucile McIntyre ... Sally


Nell is a girl who's been brought up in an isolated world. The only people she knew were her mother and twin sister. They lived together in a cottage in the forest. Nobody has ever met Nell. After her mother's death, she's discovered by the local doctor Jerome. He's fascinated by her, since she speaks a mangled language, developed by her sister and herself growing up, "twin speak" if you will. But Paula, a psychology student, wants her observed in a laboratory. The judge decides they get three months to observe her in the forest, after which he'll decide about Nell's future. Written by Tony Kessen <rhkessen@cs.vu.nl>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Language beyond understanding Life beyond words... Discover... See more »



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for nudity | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

23 December 1994 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Una mujer llamada Nell  »


Box Office


$31,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| (uncredited)| (uncredited)


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


Christina Applegate was offered the role of Paula, but turned the role down due to her commitment to Married with Children (1986). See more »


(at around 14 mins) The depth of the water Jerry is in changes. See more »


Paula: What is it with you and Nell?
Jerry: It's like... there's no one else in the world. Like she doesn't need anybody. Can you live your whole life that way, or does it drive you crazy in the end?
See more »


Referenced in The Cinema Snob: Staying Alive (2015) See more »


Written by Willie Nelson
Performed by Patsy Cline
Courtesy of MCA Records
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Foster works admirably hard, but film is unenlightening and not too convincing...
23 June 2006 | by See all my reviews

Young woman, raised in total isolation in the backwoods of North Carolina by her mother (who had suffered strokes and inadvertently taught her daughter an idiosyncratic form of English) is discovered by a well-meaning doctor who hopes to understand her; unfortunately, other doctors with an eye on their careers get involved and, figuring the girl to be a mentally retarded wild child, bring science into the equation. Intrinsically, the film is about how civilization corrupts our innate innocence, yet the movie is really a bit condescending to the medical profession to suggest today's scientists (and journalists) are only interested in basic assimilation and not the human spirit. If this is indicative of today's society--and that the message is we'd all be better off living like Nell--it doesn't provide much enlightenment (or entertainment value), just annoyance. The picture has a cold, flat look, and Jodie Foster (a highly intelligent actress) rarely gets to use her brains; she's beautifully pale and dreamy-eyed one minute, a ferocious animal the next, and the transitions are jarring. Natasha Richardson, as the doctor who would initially like to see Nell act like just like the rest of us, gets stuck with the worst role (all she ever seems to ask is, "So what are we gonna do about Nell?"). Many of the doctors are written and acted to be the villains of the piece (right about on a par with the ignorant roadhouse yahoos who make fun of Nell), and the director (the estimable Michael Apted) can't seem to get around the daunting clichés. Foster provides a few lovely moments, especially when showing off her expressive hands in close-up, and there's a touching final shot of her knowing, gentle face, but the movie itself just goes around in circles. ** from ****

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