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Film Review: “The Lost Daughter” (2021)


Rating: 5 out of 5.

Not every person is equipped to become a parent. It’s a duty of a lifetime that must be carried out without flaws. Yes, no one is perfect. But the one who considers themselves to be one can easily become distanced from their own flesh and blood.

Adapted from Elena Ferrante’s novel and directed by first-time director, Maggie Gyllenhaal, “The Lost Daughter” is an examination of one woman’s life, Leda (Olivia Colman), who must confront her past and the choice she made towards her children as she begins to see herself in Nina (Dakota Johnson), a mother with her own flaws, guilts and mistakes. Their paths will cross. Both will get a chance to look at each other, make decisions, get angry at themselves and at life too.

“The Lost Daughter” is a very complex story that is not easy to translate onto the big or small screen. Its subtle approach toward motherhood is scandalous sometimes – but humane too. We see Leda driving a car. Shortly after, as she drives her vehicle, she faints. It’s then we begin to get to know her more, the look she gives to us is magnificent. She is free-spirited, does whatever she wants and enjoys life to the fullest – all alone.

While on the beach, she meets a new family. When Elena, Nina’s daughter disappears, it’s Leda who finds and brings her back to the concerned mother. That is when their bond begins to grow. It looks like two women have found a soulmate in each other. In fact, they did. It’s just Nina who does not realize that this woman is just studying her, as she unknowingly gives Leda all the reasons to doubt Nina’s ability to be a loving wife and a trustworthy parent, which Leda herself has never been.

Maggie Gyllenhaal, like a skilled wrestler, gets right into the script, chews it up, and delivers it with a bang. The slow burning start of the film is justifiable and redeems itself towards the end. As I mentioned earlier, the story is not easy to be told. But it’s female-centric, and that allows, especially for the female audience, to grasp it to the fullest. Leda is not someone you will like or accept. I would not. We know that she had made her mistakes. But did she admit them? One particular scene reveals it – she never regretted her past choices, but that is what makes her dangerous and unpredictable – she will never realize what she does impacts Nina and her still young family.

That being said, Olivia Colman as the troubled Leda is outstanding. She nails Leda, a multilayered persona who no other actor would be able to convey the way Colman did. She is an artist, master, giant. It’s all that you can say. Dakota Johnson delivers one of her best performances, as another woman with the prosperity of living the life led by Leda, but does not know about it just yet. The two women share excellent chemistry by bringing up the story of two women, the lost daughter and the impact it will have on both of them going forward.

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