A woman’s beach vacation takes a dark turn when she begins to confront the troubles of her past.
‘The Lost Daughter’ is a psychological thriller set primarily on the Greek island of Spetses, about Leda Caruso, a writer who travels there for a working vacation where she plans to write a new book. Spending the days on the beach, she becomes intrigued (and some would say obsessed) with a young mother and her daughter, who are part of a larger group of holidaymakers. Leda is played by Olivia Colman, who is perfectly cast as a woman clearly troubled by something in her past, something that starts to become illuminated through flashbacks to her time as a young mother (Jessie Buckley plays the younger Leda).
‘The Lost Daughter’ plays as a mystery and first time director Maggie Gyllenhaal (alongside Colman’s performance) does a great job of keeping the audience guessing, but more than that this is a film about motherhood and the difficulties it entails. We see this through different lenses, with Buckley as the young Leda struggling with two children, Dakota Johnson as Nina, the mother from the beach who is aged similarly to Leda in the flashbacks, and of course through Colman, as a woman now reflecting back on her own experiences of motherhood in the past. I liked that it doesn’t sugarcoat the experience and it’s honest about the difficulties, with Colman’s character and performance incredibly relatable (that cinema experience is infuriating!).
The movie is adapted from a novel by Elena Ferrante, the author behind the incredibly popular ‘My Brilliant Friend (L’amica geniale)’ series, and there are similarities between the two works in the themes that are explored. The material is deftly handled by Gyllenhaal, who skillfully intercuts the flashbacks to add more context to the story and the experiences Leda is going through in the present day, and helping to build towards a well judged finale that thankfully avoided going down the path I thought it might have done.
‘The Lost Daughter’ is an excellent debut from Maggie Gyllenhaal and acts as another showcase for not just the brilliant Olivia Colman, but Jessie Buckley and Dakota Johnson as well. It’s on Netflix (as appears to be everything these days!) from December 31st.
Directed By: Maggie Gyllenhaal
Starring: Olivia Colman, Dakota Johnson, Jessie Buckley, Ed Harris, Peter Sarsgaard, Paul Mescal, Dagmara Dominczyk, Oliver Jackson-Cohen and Jack Farthing