The Lost Daughter is a psychological drama written and directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal in her feature directorial debut, based on the 2006 novel of the same name by Elena Ferrante. Olivia Colman also serves as an executive producer. I found The Lost Daughter to be somewhat weird and boring. However, the subject it dealt with was profound and I felt any message that was being offered just got lost somewhere in the storytelling.
While on holiday in Greece, a middle-aged college professor, and noted translator, Leda Caruso (Olivia Coleman), meets Nina (Dakota Johnson), a young mother, after Nina’s three-year-old daughter Elena (Athena Martin) goes momentarily missing on the beach. Leda finds Elena and returns her to her mother (Nina), who expresses her growing exhaustion and unhappiness. Elena is upset after she loses her favorite doll, which Leda has secretly taken. In flashbacks, it is revealed that young Leda also struggled with being a young mother to her two daughters, Bianca (Robyn Elwell) and Martha (Ellie Blake), often losing her patience and becoming withdrawn from her family.
One evening, Leda has dinner with Lyle (Ed Harris), her hotel’s caretaker, who sees that she has the doll but doesn’t comment on it, nor does he tell Nina. Leda later discovers Nina is having an affair with Will (Paul Mescal), an assistant at the resort, and Nina explains that her husband Toni (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) is very controlling. The search for Elena’s doll continues, with Nina even putting up flyers offering a reward for its return.
At a market, Leda buys Nina a hatpin to help hold her sunhat in place. When Nina asks Leda about her daughters, Leda becomes emotional; she reveals that she had abandoned them for three years after she became too overwhelmed, leaving them with her now ex-husband, during which time she had an affair with a fellow professor. She admits that being away from her daughters felt “amazing,” and she only went back to them when she genuinely missed them. Nina learns that Leda knows about her and Will, and Will later asks Leda if they can borrow her apartment to have sex.
While I thought Olivia Coleman’s performance was spot on, I didn’t really like the film because the story was too slow and dry, however, I do think the movie was well directed with great performances from Ed Harris, Paul Mescal, and Dakota Johnson. I still don’t understand the reason for the whole doll thing and I don’t think Leda understood either. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 95% of 192 critics’ reviews are positive, with an average rating of 7.90/10. The website’s consensus reads, “A strikingly assured debut for writer-director Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Lost Daughter unites a brilliant cast in service of a daringly ambitious story.” The Lost Daughter is streaming on Netflix — You may feel differently than I do, so Check It Out!
[THE LOST DAUGHTER is Oscar-nominated at the 94th Academy Awards for BEST: Actress, Supporting Actress, and Writing: Adapted Screenplay — Totaling 3 Oscar Nominations]