Longtime actress Maggie Gyllenhaal has made her feature directorial debut with this new Netflix film, and it’s a solid starting point.
Leda, portrayed by Olivia Colman, is the star of the “The Lost Daughter.” A writer and a professor, Leda is on a vacation in Greece during the film for some time to herself.
As she’s settling in, she meets another family who’s on vacation. As Leda begins to interact with the family more, mostly with the matriarch who has a young daughter, it causes her to look back on her own past, and the decisions she made as a parent.
“The Lost Daughter” is somewhat of a deceptive watch. It’s easy with a film like this, having the title it does, to expect some sinister elements. In actuality, Gyllenhaal’s feature isn’t some sort of crime thriller, but it’s still absolutely compelling.
This is a movie very much about how things a person does in the past can always stay with them. Leda is very much an independent woman with success, and it’s clear she made some sacrifices along the way to achieve what she wanted in life.
Her beach house is gorgeous, with a fabulous view and plenty of amenities. While she has access to all of these perks, though, the young mother she meets in the movie causes her to look back on if she was a good parent.
It’s haunting in a relatable way. How regretful moments and mistakes can come rushing back and take you out of even the most pristine moment. The film shows this by cutting to several flashbacks throughout the movie with some smooth editing.
The relationship between Leda and the young mother Nina (Dakota Johnson), also adds to the effectiveness of the film. There’s whirlwind of optimism and cynicism at play from both parties.
Leda knows the hardships of parenthood, and of course she has her own past to deal with, but there’s also somewhat of a twilight in her eyes seeing a mother with a new daughter. Nina, meanwhile, is often tired from having a toddler running around, but is also enthusiastic about being a young mother.
The dynamic between the two ends up making the overarching story around who Leda is more engaging. The only issue is how loose the story is with all of these elements.
While “The Lost Daughter” is without a doubt a captivating film for what’s being explored, it can seem to meander a bit in the second and third acts. It often wins an audience back, though, and the cast certainly helps.
Colman, an Oscar winner, is of course fantastic on screen. Her character is a challenging one, often appearing closed off and reserved, but with a lot of complexities underneath the surface. Colman is exceptional at capturing this type of character.
Also deserving a lot of credit, though, is Jessie Buckley, who portrays a younger Leda in the flashbacks. Buckley, who was superb in last year’s “I’m Thinking of Ending Things,” is once again great in this picture.
While the older Leda is reflecting in the past, the younger version is living in the moment, raising two daughters and balancing her career, and Buckley nicely captures the stress on the character.
The cast is nicely rounded out, too with Johnson doing fine work as Nina and a solid performance given by Ed Harris. By the way, can we please put Harris in more of these dramas please?
“The Lost Daughter” gets a bit lost itself in the storytelling but the drama at play in the movie is endlessly fascinating to experience. This is a strong first for Gyllenhaal and another fantastic entry for Colman. 4.15 out of 5.