Stars: Jodie Foster, Liam Neeson, Natasha Richardson, Richard Libertini. Written by William Nicholson & Mark Handley. Directed by Michael Apted. Rated R for nudity.

Jodie Foster is an amazing, versatile actress. In "Nell" she plays the title character, a woman brought up by her mother in a cabin nested in the backwoods of North Carolina. The mother had suffered from a stroke which restricted her movement and slurred her speech. Because she was the only person Nell had had contact with, the young woman picked up the unusual speech patterns of her mother.

The boy who delivers groceries to the cabin discovers that his customer has recently died. The group of people who then searches the cabin stumbles across a twenty-something woman (Foster) hiding within its confines. Unaware that the old woman had had a daughter, they are further perplexed by their inability to communicate with her.

Dr. Jerome Lovell (Liam Neeson) and psychologist Paula Olsen (Natasha Richardson) set about studying Nell and her solitary life. Rather than try to teach her proper English, they attempt to decipher her peculiar variation. Ms. Olsen wants Nell to become the subject of a disciplined clinical study while Dr. Lovell wants Nell to be allowed to choose how to spend her life. Ultimately, it will be the courts who decide Nell's fate.

"Nell" is a poignant, distinctive drama about the discovery and loss of innocence. Foster's performance is sure to earn her another Oscar nod and, once again, it will be well-deserved. Liam Neeson and real-life sweetheart Natasha Richardson are also excellent in what is essentially a three-person show.

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