Film Review – The Lost Daughter (2021)

Title – The Lost Daughter (2021) 

Director – Maggie Gyllenhaal (feature debut) 

Cast – Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley, Dakota Johnson, Ed Harris, Peter Sarsgaard

Plot – On a working holiday in Greece, college professor Leda (Colman) begins to confront traumatic events from her past when occurrences on her holiday bring to light long standing issues in her personal life. 

“Is this going to pass?”

Review by Eddie on 01/02/2022

An assured directional/screenwriting debut from accomplished actress turned filmmaker Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Lost Daughter features some noteworthy performances from its three leading ladies but this often bizarre and distant psychological drama that is as off-kilter as you would expect from an indie darling like Gyllenhaal doesn’t stand up on its own when you take the skilled performances and craftsmanship away from the equation. 

Adapted from Elena Ferrante’s novel, Gyllenhaal’s heavily awarded and critically lauded Netflix original explores Olivia Colman’s mentally troubled college professor Leda on a working holiday to Greece, where the idyllic seeming seaside surrounds and quiet bars she visits give way to past traumas and current instabilities when she gets drawn into the world of Dakota Johnson’s young mother Nina and her own personal memories of being a parent to two young girls of her own. 

As you would expect based on current form, Colman yet again continues on her hot streak with an awards worthy turn as the complicated and not entirely likable Leda, with the well-liked British actress able to go from heartbroken to charismatic in the space of a few scenes and her dealings with Nina and too a lesser extent other island locals such as Ed Harris’s kindly Lyle or Paul Mescal’s Will are often highlights of the film. 

Filmed impressively by Daughter’s DOP Hélène Louvart (in her highest profile project yet), Gyllenhaal’s version of Ferrante’s layered and complex novel exploring grief, parenthood and relationship traumas is a melting pot of tension and initially intrigue about what Leda’s past entailed and what lays in store for her on her sojourn to Greece but the not entirely engaging mix-up of current Leda and past Leda (here portrayed by the good if underused Jessie Buckley) and a plot line that never comes together in a fashion that makes it all worth while makes Daughter a rather cold and off-putting ride that is at its best early on when we know far less about what this story entails. 

The oddness that lays within Daughter’s core story and the dwindling returns emotionally as the runtime wears on is unlikely to stop Daughter from featuring prominently at the upcoming Oscar’s, with Gyllenhaal at the very least showcasing here that she is going to be a fine director of actors into the future in what promises to be an entertaining career as as filmmaker. 

Final Say – 

An unashamedly odd psychological drama dealing with some heavy topics in unflattering ways, The Lost Daughter is an acting showpiece for its main trio and a well-made debut by Maggie Gyllenhaal but it never grips like it could’ve as a whole and ends up being impressively mid-tier and nothing more. 

2 1/2 movie screenings out of 5  

6 responses to “Film Review – The Lost Daughter (2021)

  1. I actually went to the theaters and did a double feature of it with Red Rocket (which I really loved, BTW), and I’m glad we’re on a similar wavelength regarding the film.

    I thought the acting was really good, between Olivia Coleman and Dakota Johnson, and I loved the cinematography and score. But I didn’t really found the film all that engaging, and at the halfway point, I found that my interest had waned to the point where I was on my phone (and I try my damnedest to be on my phone when seeing something in the theaters).

    Granted, this was a good debut from Gyllenhaal, and I am interested to see what movie she does next.

    • Very excited to see Red Rocket.

      But yep totally agree with you on this one, I was pretty much done with my emotional investment around the half way mark.

  2. This was certainly a weird movie, but still I sat there glued through the whole movie. And like you said, it may not have been great but the leading actresses carried this the whole way.

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