Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut has laughs, drama, and motherhood.
Olivia Colman shines in Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut of the film version of the book “The Lost Daughter.” She plays Leda Caruso, an English professor from Cambridge, Boston, who travels to Greece on holiday, and sees a mother and little girl, both of whom remind her of when she was a young mother with two girls.
Here’s why I can’t give this a four-star rating. There are a few scenes in the beginning when little girls cry loudly. Part of my autism is that I don’t like loud noises. It all depends on what kind of noise it is. I know kids cry in real life, but I still have dog ears. Even a supporting character wants to leave an area where a child is bawling. But did that stop me from liking “The Lost Daughter?” I think not.
It tickles you when Leda adapts to her apartment room, when she finds moldy fruit, and a big bug sleeping on a pillow and leaving a mark. Ed Harris is also cast as the caretaker, who’s happy to accommodate her.
It also reels you in when she’s reminded of her past, when her two daughters drive her crazy up to the point of her breaking a glass door and attacking one of her girls for leaving marks on her mother’s doll, and then throwing it out the window. Jessie Buckley is also marvelous as the Leda in her twenties. She’s frazzled with balancing her work with motherhood.
She still finds the joy and serenity of being a mother, but she also has to make choices. She has a romantic fling with a big shot scholar (Peter Sarsgaard, Gyllenhaal’s husband), and has to leave her two kids for work for a few years.
The mother Leda is interested in is Nina (Dakota Johnson), whose little girl goes missing on the beach she’s relaxing at. Leda finds her, and now, Nina’s tribe is looking for her beloved doll, which ends up in Leda’s possession. It’s like she wants to replicate her mother’s broken doll, and we also see her cleaning it. This is when things get really interesting.
“The Lost Daughter,” released by Netflix, is a psychodrama that keeps you involved and pondering on what Leda’s ambitions and intentions are. She starts off relaxing and ends up caught in a trip down memory lane that starts to set things out of motion. Gyllenhaal directs and writes the screenplay with a certain kind of poignant ease, which takes its time in allowing us to get to know the main woman and acknowledging her life.
Colman shines in the ways she transcends her emotions, and I’ve already mentioned how well Buckley is as her younger self. Paul Mescal has a fine supporting role as an Irish student, whom Leda talks to, while Johnson, Sarsgaard, and Harris all keep their respective attitudes in balance.
Again, I didn’t like the loud crying scenes in the beginning, but I’m glad they stopped as the film kept going. It’s how Gyllenhaal directs and how she guides Colman and Buckley, which make “The Lost Daughter” entertaining and challenging. You’ll be able to process what’s going on in Leda’s mind as soon as the story unfolds.
Now Playing in Select Theaters
Streaming on Netflix December 29