Review: The Lost Daughter (2021)


The Lost Daughter (2021)

Directed by: Maggie Gyllenhaal | 121 minutes | drama | Actors: Olivia Colman, Dakota Johnson, Peter Sarsgaard, Jessie Buckley, Paul Mescal, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Ed Harris, Dagmara Dominczyk, Alba Rohrwacher

One of the worst nightmares of parents is losing a child somewhere on vacation. Moreover, the shame that they have not paid enough attention is extra paralyzing. This is exactly what happens to young mother Nina in ‘The Lost Daughter’. The excitable fifty-year-old Leda lives at the same holiday resort and is particularly fascinated by Nina’s ordeal, which is the starting signal for an ominous and scintillating psychological drama from debut director Maggie Gyllenhaal.

‘The Lost Daughter’ revolves around the inner life of the American Leda. To perpetuate her academic career in Italian literature, she takes a study holiday to Greece. In addition, Leda recently divorced and has two girls in their early twenties. As she reflects on her motherhood and relationship, Leda’s head spins, nearly drowning her in memories of guilt and shame. This is cleverly illustrated by montages in which scenes of young Leda with her daughters are mirrored to situations from the present, such as the disappearance of Nina’s daughter. The responsibility for posterity and family life, and with it the partial relinquishment of individual freedom, felt suffocating to Leda. And still actually.

Gyllenhaal’s penetrating film is also quite an odd one out. In the first place, ‘The Lost Daughter’ is a drama about motherhood and being a woman, but it also has a psychological thriller laced with jet-black humor, sensual moments and mysterious side paths. In addition, characters from very different backgrounds are attracted to each other. The film skilfully reveals whether the attraction is mainly between the ears of the characters, or whether something is really going on. Essentially, ‘The Lost Daughter’ has quite a capricious character, just like Leda. This makes it challenging for the viewer.

In addition, Gyllenhaal has managed to get a really great cast for her book adaptation of the Elena Ferrante novel of the same name. It is almost bulging with American and British acting talent. Without any vanity, Olivia Colman credibly portrays the difficult and enigmatic Leda. The British actress knows how to arouse just enough sympathy, because sometimes you want to stick the haughty and neurotic academic behind the wallpaper. Dakota Johnson cleverly plays the seemingly innocent Nina; she is both elusive and earthy. Jessie Buckley stars as young Leda who juggles her career, relationship and motherhood on the brink of disaster. Above all, almost every actor, no matter how small the role, puts on a strong performance (note the old hand Ed Harris and the young dog Paul Mescal), because Gyllenhaal, an actor herself, knows personally what her colleagues need for such a performance. top performance.

Hopefully Gyllenhaal’s film career will follow the successful path of Sarah Polley, who has acted in ‘Secret Life of Words’ (Isabel Coixet, 2005) and directed ‘Stories We Tell’ (2012). Like Polley, Gyllenhaal has a very good nose for challenging material as an actress and she has translated this more than excellently to the director’s chair.