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The Lost Daughter review: Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley shine in Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut

Based on a novel of the same name, the film also stars Ed Harris and Peter Sarsgaard, among others.

Prathibha Joy
Jan 03, 2022
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Olivia Colman in The Lost Daughter

Story: On a solo trip to Greece, middle-aged professor from Britain, Leda Caruso (Olivia Colman), meets a rambunctious US-based Greek family, one member of which – a young mother called Nina (Dakota Johnson) – reminds her a lot of herself in her younger days.

Review: I fell in love with Olivia Colman when I saw her in the British crime drama Broadchurch, so when the trailer of The Lost Daughter dropped, I was instantly sold. It was only later that the other distinguished names on the cast and crew, including debutant director Maggie Gyllenhaal, came up and made it an even more anticipated film. The film, which had a theatrical release in the US in early December, dropped on Netflix on the eve of New Year’s, so I couldn’t get to it immediately. Well, better late than never, right?

The Lost Daughter is based on a novel of the same name by Elena Ferrante. Critics across the globe have loved Maggie’s directorial debut, with the odd unfavourable comment (mainly from fans of the book) popping up every now and then. I haven’t read the book. As for the film, well, I didn’t love it, but it was good, no doubt, thanks in large parts to Olivia Colman. It’s amazing how she can make even a scene of her throwing a particularly loud insect perched on her pillow out of the window look interesting.

Colman is Leda Caruso, a middle-aged professor from the UK, on a solo beach holiday in Greece. The 48-year-old is instantly drawn to a young mother with a toddler and her apparent struggle with motherhood - something Leda relates to very well, having abandoned her family for a few years for literary and romantic pursuits. Irish actress and singer Jessie Buckley plays the younger Leda to such perfection that she deserves just as much credit as Colman for making this film an interesting watch. The film also stars Ed Harris, who, sadly, has not aged in the most flattering fashion, as well as Peter Sarsgaard, Paul Mescal and Jack Farthing, among others, in minor roles that are pivotal to the narrative. As for Dakota Johnson, I guess she’s in a film because she carries off a bikini really well; there’s not much to write about her as Nina otherwise.

The central premise of The Lost Daughter is that the protagonist is an ‘unnatural mother’, a woman, who struggles with the responsibilities of two young daughters, while also on the cusp of a promising literary pursuit and then walks out on it. Call me old-fashioned, but this is what I couldn’t relate to. I guess it is a cultural/social conditioning thing, wherein mothers are expected to multi-task, shoulder a sizeable share of the parenting duties and carry on with their personal and professional responsibilities with equal dedication and no complaining. It’s just a thing that’s expected of you, so you manage.

That apart, The Lost Daughter is a good one-time watch and Maggie’s very confident debut as director. Give this one a watch, but not with expectations because there are scenes where you expect drama and get none, but are still entertained.

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