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The Lost Daughter (Parent And Baby Screening) (15)

Cast: Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley, Dakota Johnson, Peter Sarsgaard, Ed Harris, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Paul Mescal
Genre: Drama
Author(s): Maggie Gyllenhaal
Director: Maggie Gyllenhaal
Release Date: 17/12/2021 (selected cinemas)
Running Time: 122mins
Country: US/Gre
Year: 2021

Forty-something language professor Leda Caruso rents a cottage for a month in a small fishing town in Greece. On the local beach, Leda clashes with menacing matriarch Callie and her husband Vassili by refusing to move her sun lounger to accommodate the couple's disruptive clan. Unperturbed, Leda is drawn to Callie's sister-in-law Nina, who is visibly struggling to raise a three-year-old daughter, Elena, without interference from Callie. An unspoken bond is forged when Elena goes missing.


LondonNet Film Review
The Lost Daughter (15)

In an early scene from actor Maggie Gyllenhaal’s magnificent directorial debut, a scholar (Olivia Colman) shocks an expectant first-time mother by confiding “Children are a crushing responsibility”. Those words set the discomfiting and melancholic tone of The Lost Daughter, an exquisitely observed study of parenthood and self-preservation based on Italian novelist Elena Ferrante’s 2006 book. Drawing on her experience in front of the camera, Gyllenhaal coaxes a powerhouse central performance from Oscar winner Colman as an emotionally volatile woman of learning, who by her own anguished admission is “an unnatural mother”. The character’s mood swings, sparked by innocuous questions about her grown-up daughters, are deftly navigated by Colman, keeping us at arm’s length from a protagonist who never fully lowers her emotional guard and always seems to be hiding something from a world that barely notices her…

Flashbacks to salad days when her younger incarnation (Jessie Buckley) coolly contemplates abandoning her girls and marriage for an affair with a charismatic professor (Peter Sarsgaard) is a stern test of the actress’s ability to walk a tightrope between spiky selfishness and tearful desperation. Gyllenhaal’s lean script upends expectations, notably in a tense final act when the few chickens that come home to roost risk having their necks snapped.

Forty-something language professor Leda Caruso (Colman) rents a cottage for a month in a small fishing town in Greece. Property manager Lyle (Ed Harris) regrets offering to carry her suitcase filled with books before he leaves Leda to her own devices and painful reminiscences of her two daughters, Martha (Ellie Blake) and Bianca (Robyn Elwell), and husband Joe (Jack Farthing). On the local beach, Leda clashes with menacing matriarch Callie (Dagmara Dominczyk) and her husband Vassili (Panos Koronis) by refusing to move her sun lounger to accommodate the couple’s disruptively rowdy clan. “Don’t do things like that,” beach attendant Will (Paul Mescal) advises Leda. “They’re bad people.”

Unperturbed, Leda is drawn to Callie’s sister-in-law Nina (Dakota Johnson), who is visibly struggling to raise a three-year-old daughter, Elena (Athena Martin), without interference from Callie. An unspoken bond is forged when Elena goes missing and Leda stumbles upon the toddler playing in the undergrowth and returns the child to a deeply grateful and shocked Nina.

Shot on location on the picturesque Greek island of Spetses, The Lost Daughter builds tension gradually as Leda unravels psychologically before our eyes and the consequences of her actions ripple across the coastal community. Colman and Buckley are mesmerising as two incarnations of a troubled heroine, who is crippled by the guilt of having to choose between family and career. Both can be spitefully savage and Gyllenhaal doesn’t flinch from showing open wounds when their words cut deep and to the bone.

– Sarah Lee


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