The Lost Daughter | Movie Review

Olivia Colman deserves another Oscar for Netflix’s beautiful Elena Ferrante production, The Lost Daughter. Maggie Gyllenhaal makes a sensitive directorial debut with a philosophically deep adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s novel, The Lost Daughter.

In the new Netflix movie The Lost Daughter, Dakota Johnson’s mysterious young mother tells the mythical-sounding Leda, “Don’t think badly of me.” Leda, as played by Olivia Colman, brushes her worries aside. “Oh, I don’t think negatively of anyone,” she says in her signature sing-song accent. And it is this sentiment that motivates Maggie Gyllenhaal, the film’s debutante director.

The Lost Daughter, based on Elena Ferrante’s elegiac novel, is a film about not-so-nice individuals, but you won’t find writer-director Gyllenhaal passing judgement on them. If anything, the film is searingly sympathetic to its characters, the most prominent of which is a middle-aged divorcee who makes it quite obvious multiple times that she isn’t quite cut out for parenthood.

Leda’s pleasure on a ‘working holiday’ in a beachfront Greek hamlet is forcibly disturbed by a noisy family from New York. They exude arrogance as they demand that Leda make way for them on the beach by relocating her belongings to one side. Leda refuses, more out of defensiveness than anything else, but ends up with a target painted on her back for the rest of the journey. The rude family isn’t used to hearing any, and it shows. Have you ever been to a peaceful mountain cafe, viewing the sunset in solitude, only to hear someone ask loudly if they have butter chicken?

Leda, an Italian literature researcher with a ringtone that sounds like a Miles Davis song, can’t help but scoff at the beer-guzzling, tracksuit-wearing jerks who’ve trashed her own beach. She gives them a disgusted face as if she’s just watched the storming of Normandy.

Leda is shaken by memories of her own history as a young mother to two girls as she sees Nina, who appears to be on the verge of a mental collapse as she attempts to care for her daughter Elena. In these flashbacks, she is played by Jessie Buckley, one of the most thrilling actresses of her generation and perhaps the only one who could have competed with Colman in a storey that demands both of them to be at the same level.

On one of her journeys, the teenage Leda is lured by a swan-like professor played by Peter Sarsgaard, who, in an over-the-top moment of symbolism, recites Yeats to her. It’s in Italian. It’s no surprise she didn’t judge Nina when she caught her in a precarious position.

For a Peril in Paradise film, Gyllenhaal is more interested in entering their thoughts than in unclothing their bodies. Her camera, which is primarily handheld, lingers on faces and fades out of scenes on its own terms. It’s assured filmmaking; Gyllenhaal is a first-time filmmaker with a voice—someone who can elicit suspense from a single shot of an orange being peeled.

The Lost Daughter is a complicated novel about parenthood that takes the risky decision not to counter the potentially alienating drama by introducing Leda’s daughters’ perspectives. It also does not sue her for neglecting her motherly obligations.

 

However, it appears that Leda has put herself on trial. She readily tears up and clings on to Nina, despite the fact that she’s definitely inviting problems. It’s clear that Leda has built walls around herself, but it’s never clear if this is a defence strategy against others or a defence mechanism against herself.

It does, however, demolish numerous long-held beliefs about parenthood. The Lost Daughter is a film about unfeeling women done with a sympathetic touch. Leda and Nina haven’t merely accepted their emotional distance; they’re trapped in a debilitating loop of trying to conform while still longing to break free. Nina sees her future in Leda, and it frightens her. Leda may see her history in Nina. Unlike the orange peel, this chain is unlikely to be broken.

The  Lost Daughter

Maggie Gyllenhaal is the director of The Lost Daughter.

Olivia Colman, Dakota Johnson, Jessie Buckley, Ed Harris, and Peter Sarsgaard star in The Lost Daughter.

The Lost Daughter has a rating of IMDB 6.8 stars.

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