#REVIEW: “THE LOST DAUGHTER”
Review by Amanda Gilmore for Mr. Will Wong
College Professor Leda (Olivia Colman) goes to a seaside town in Greece for a quiet work holiday. What she gets instead is a loud family that invades her daily beach visits. However, she finds a kindred spirit among the family in young mother Nina (Dakota Johnson). As the days go on, Leda becomes more obsessed with Nina and her young daughter, forcing her to confront her unsettling past.
Director and Screenwriter Maggie Gyllenhaal does an exquisite adaptation of Elena Ferrante‘s Novel of the same name. This is a story about the suffocation of young motherhood. It comes as no surprise that Gyllenhaal won Best Screenplay at the Venice Film Festival this year. The Script is deeply-layered and complex in its characters and themes. The beautiful Greek town is juxtaposed with hidden rotting fruit and a doll filled with dirty water. These unsettling visuals inform us that something is hidden below the surface of these seemingly content women.
Additionally, Gyllenhaal knocks it out of the park with her direction, which is fearless in honesty. In early motherhood, Leda (Jessie Buckley) feels being a mother is a life sentence. Buckley is sublime, exposing the heaviness inside Leda subtly and another layer upon the already brilliant dialogue. Leda’s attempting to carve out her career path while attending to her daughters. This pressure leads her to yell at and ignore her children. Buckley shows Leda’s mounting stress and immediate guilt that comes from putting herself first.
Society has prescribed a formula for what a mother should be. Nina’s sister Callie (a magnificent Dagmara Domińczyk) stands-in for this view. She’s pregnant with her first child yet spews facts about the bliss of motherhood. However, Leda and Nina show us the grueling side of being a mother. It’s refreshing that Gyllenhaal doesn’t feel the need to make us sympathize with these women. Instead, she unflinchingly shows us their faults and allows us to decide whether we empathize or not. Yet, her charming and charismatic cast sway us in their court.
Johnson is captivating and gives immense mystery to Nina who’s living two separate lives. The one she hides from her family but shows to Leda. She exposes Nina’s joy, shame and suffocation. It’s one of her finest performances to date. And Colman gives a tour-de-force performance as Leda. With each encounter with Nina, the weight of Leda’s decision weighs her down. Colman expertly unravels the pent-up guilt Leda has buried. It’s a performance that demands to be seen.
Gyllenhaal’s Script also explores the inseparable bond between mothers and daughters. The young daughters physically cling to their mothers. When Nina attempts to loosen her daughter’s tight grasp, the daughter gives a piercing scream. This hints at the distress the separation of this relationship could have. Therefore, making Leda’s decision all the more impactful.
Impressively, Gyllenhaal doesn’t give any definitive answers. Instead, she offers us insight into the reality of many mothers’ experiences. The Lost Daughter is a masterful film and one of the most captivating of the year.
Netflix Canada release THE LOST DAUGHTER in theatres Friday, December 17, 2021 and streams Friday, December 31, 2021.
*Please exercise caution observing COVID-19 protocols if seeing this in-theatre*