It tells the story of an adult woman who has to face other people for the first time after being raised by her mother in an isolated cabin.
Nell is a good film but, like many other ok films, it loses a lot when the plot turns commercially. All the scenes with Jodie in them are beautifully done, but I cared less about the other characters and unfortunately we see a lot of them. And I must point out the beautiful original score.
Jodie plays Nell, a wild child: a mature woman who grew up in a cabin in the woods just with her mother and her twin sister who died when she was a child. She speaks a language of her own that’s hard to understand and knows nothing of the outside world. When her mother dies, Nell is discovered by a kind doctor who tries to protect her and decide what’s in her best interest.
It’s definitely not the typical Best Actress role and we have seen similar characters in regular movies that were disastrously portrayed. Nell is not a character mentally challenged and her behaviour is somewhat close to a person with autism – because she lives in her own world and at first has no desire to connect with elements outside her comfort zone. Though I had doubts she’ll nail it at first, as the role became more emotional I was completely charmed.
First there’s the physical aspect of the role and Jodie is just perfectly cast: her body type, her thinness, the certain stiffness of her movements, that touch of masculinity, the ability of looking humble and unpretentious and, most of all, those eyes… Jodie delivers Nell’s language as well as any other great actress would’ve manage to, but the key of the performance is the expressivity of her blue eyes and how much she can tell you just with one look or facial expression.
I’ve said that the beginning of the performance is a bit shaky because there’s a lot of screaming and there’s still a wall separating the viewer from the character’s feelings. As the story progresses we get used to her way of speaking and we see the emotional vulnerability of the character, but also her childish joy for life and her heart-warming excitement towards new discoveries.
Jodie’s acting in some of the scenes really did it for me: Nell’s first visit in town is played perfectly and the barroom scene is both believable and emotionally charged. She always understands the character and, especially in the second part, I was always convinced by her acting. It feels like a performance that required studying and training, but except for some minor slips it ends up looking as natural and as believable as it could be for such a character.
It’s a performance both simple and incredibly complex. The complexity comes from the emotional layers that Jodie has to show us using such unconventional means; the simplicity is all about how natural it gets to feel and how raw (and maybe familiar) the character’s emotions are. What convinced me of its greatness is not a big screaming scene, but the last 1 or 2 minutes of the film. There is so much love, but also pain and regret in her eyes while looking at the young girl; and that took me by surprise, it provoked me, it made me sad, I felt I GOT IT and I’m still thinking about it. The performance is a to say the least.