This review is brought to you by Kathy Kaiser
DIRECTOR/WRITER: Maggie Gyllenhaal
WRITER: Based on the 2006 novel by Elena Ferrante
STARRING: Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley, Dakota Johnson, and Ed Harris
As a mother myself, I can relate to the challenges of parenting two girls of my own far too well…so I was excited to embark into the first film where actress Maggie Gyllenhaal decided to write, and direct too, as she brings to life the novel by the same name, penned by Elena Ferrante.
As we meet Leda (Olivia Colman), it seems that we are embarking on holiday, to a beautiful beach side resort. Ready to relax and take in some alone time, it seems that these well laid plans are not to be in the cards, when young mother Nina (Dakota Johnson), and her very boisterous family, take up residency on the beach.
Leda finds herself first frustrated, then paying more attention than usual to Nina, as her young daughter can’t seem to find a way to give her mother any peace. As Leda watches their mother/daughter interactions unfold, she finds herself reminiscing back into her own psyche, remembering the struggles and torment she felt as a young mother (played by Jessie Buckley), and with a husband who wants you to use every waking minute, becoming more engaged with the raising of your family.
When Nina’s daughter ends up missing, the flashbacks of Leda’s life come flooding back, as she flashes back in her own existence as a growing girl, and then again as a young mother, who can’t seem to find a way to experience life as a young adult, without feeling the pain of constantly being summoned by her two girls, who long for her attention…
As Lena’s psychotic whirlwind continues, it seems that the remote beach holiday she so longed for, has become nothing more than a painful reminder of her suffering as a child, or as a parent, and the constant torment she continues to face, at choosing herself, and her happiness, over the painful existence that consumed her, while she was raising her own beautiful girls…
I give THE LOST DAUGHTER a rating of 3/5: Gyllenhaal manages on her first stint as Writer and Director to pull another award worthy performance out of Olivia Colman, as you experience this psychologically challenging film. Dakota Johnson’s portrayal of playing a mom that has so much more to deal with, than deflecting her own needy daughter every once in a while, fell short for me along the way. I also felt that Ed Harris’s character needed more screen time, and storyline too, as maybe Lena wouldn’t have dismantled so quickly with her own inner demons, if he could have stayed around a little more. I must also share at this juncture that even as the world is singing the praises of Maggie’s direction, as am I, I am not as enthralled or enamored by this film, as many of my fellow critics on both coasts seem to be. I mean, the cinematography is beautiful, along with Colman’s better than average performance, but I’ve seen better performances by her in the past, and the psychological issues that are conveyed for this woman and mother to deal with, although totally relatable and sad, and maybe at times a little alarming, in the end they all just seem to be too easily dismissed, or ignored by all those around her, leaving a gapping hole for me in what the process and message of this film is truly supposed to convey…
If you would like to catch this one, regardless of my review, it’s should be popping soon at Plaza Frontenac, or you can catch it on NETFLIX too, starting December 31st.