January 3, 2022

SCREEN | Maggie Gyllenhaal Finds 'The Lost Daughter'

"Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity."
Olivia Colman Maggie Gyllenhaal | The Lost Daughter Netflix
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Actress Maggie Gyllenhaal makes her impressive filmmaking debut in the haunting screen adaptation of the Greek Island-set psychological drama based on pseudonymous Italian author Elena Ferrante's novella of the same name. The Lost Daughter (aka La figlia oscura) gives us two carefully filmed, sunkissed hours revealing the silently crushing burdens of motherhood.

Starring the always transfixing Olivia Colman as Leda, a middle-aged professor on holiday at a seaside resort, with Jessie Buckley playing her younger version in extended flashback sequences, she's a mother momentarily escaping her own grown daughters and family. Soon, she connects with Dakota Johnson's Nina as the former sees elements of herself in the young vacationing mother when the latter momentarily loses her titular child at the beach.

Colman's casual charm and beguiling hidden emotions underscore the dramatic tension of the film's lingering sense of parental angst. Handsome men of varying ages and good looks played by Ed Harris, Paul Mescal, and Peter Sarsgaard (Gyllenhaal's real-life husband) show up to interrupt chapters in Leda's life and memories.

Colman, Buckley, and Johnson make for brilliantly contrasting portraits of the thanklessly neverending role and constant frustrations of motherhood. Gyllenhaal adapts The Lost Daughter with great verve and instincts grounded in some fine but understated performances. It shows how being a mother never truly escapes you, no matter where you are.

The Lost Daughter screened at the VIFF Centre and is available to stream on Netflix.

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