The Lost Daughter (Maggie Gylenhaal, 2021, Greece/UK/Israel/US)

The most downbeat film of Awards season, Maggie Gyllenhaal's The Lost Daughter is an auspicious directorial debut from the actress. Adapted from a novel by anonymous Italian author Elena Ferrante (most famous for My Brilliant Friend), the film tells the story of a middle-aged professor and translator, played by Olivia Colman, who is on holiday in Greece. While on holiday, she encounters a family. She begins talking to Nina, a young mother, who is expressing growing frustration with her children. Leda (Olivia Colman) helps Nina find her daughter when she briefly goes missing. However, things start to get weird when Leda secretly takes Nina's daughter's doll and hides it for the remainder of the film.

In the meantime, we are treated to growing tension between Leda and the family. The men are violent and unruly, and there is a threat that something might happen to Leda's character physically. There are also a series of flashbacks, wherein we learn about Leda's past. She also has two daughters like Nina, but we learn throughout the film that - due to the sheer stress of it all - she decided to abandon them and have a love affair with a fellow academic (played by Peter Sarsgaard, the husband of Maggie Gyllenhaal). 

The Lost Daughter is a total mood piece and character study, with Olivia Colman's performance leading the show. There is a persistent sense of dread throughout the film, and this is enhanced by the film's excellent score from Dickon Hinchcliffe as well as the great use of sound. While sometimes the flashbacks can seem like a bit overkill, and the ending leaves something to desire, The Lost Daughter is a very effective examination of motherhood and will undoubtedly serve as a Rorschach test to whoever decides to watch it. Recommended and not only for fans of Colman.



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