The Lost Daughter Review – A Haunting Psychological Drama

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The Lost Daughter, a Netflix original, presents the story of choices as a single college professor on vacation becomes intertwined with another vacationing family and finds herself suddenly reliving her own past choices as a young mother.

The film begins with a hint of the ending, as an injured woman, stumbles toward the sea and falls. The scene immediately reverts to the same women, played by Olivia Coleman, driving, enjoying the freedom, we can see the ocean in the background, and it is clear she is on holiday.


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Arriving at her destination, Lyle, played by Ed Harris, the caretaker for the apartment the woman, Leda, has rented, helps her up the stairs with her suitcases of books. We are told she is a professor on a working vacation.

Moving through the vacation, we meet Nina, played by Dakota Johnson, a young mother, married into a traditional patriarchal family. Today, everyone is at the beach. Callie, played by Dagmara Dominczyk, Nina's mother in-law is asking everyone, not connected to her family, to move down the beach so her family can all sit together.

When she asks Leda, who appears to be a polite English woman, she refuses and is called a "cunt" by the rowdy and rude son, and suddenly it appears as if this small refusal to accommodate has initiated war.

As it is vacation, the next day at the beach Nina's child disappears, and everyone, including Leda is looking for the child who has wandered off leaving her doll to play in the sand behind the rocks. Leda's mind flashes back to an identical moment as a young mother.


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Leda finds the little girl and suddenly the ill will of the day before has vanished. It isn't long before the child is inconsolable as her doll disappears and, as we find out, remains heartbroken for days. For some reason, which is never explained, Leda takes the doll and while we see her attempting to clean it up, redress it and make it look like new instead of a child's rag, her motivation remains a mystery.

The tranquility of the beach escape is constantly being interrupted by uncontrollable circumstances: the young male teens from the family who curse freely, are disruptive and just seem to enjoy causing chaos; Nina, and her affair with the summer help, Will, played by Paul Mescal, even Leda's memories which although some are remembered with pleasure the others are haunting and accusing.

The Lost Daughter is a methodical approach to life as seen through multiple generations. On the exterior Leda, who appears to have never strayed outside the lines, is reliving the moments in her past when she made choices for her career.


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Nina is a young mother, and while she has the support of an extended family, she is truly unhappy and sees the future as this dark, claustrophobic, and an oppressive life tied to a child, who is a handful and demanding.

Intertwined through the present Leda, through flashbacks, confronts the season when she was a young mother, played by Jessie Buckley, with two children, and a doctoral student who is just beginning to receive the recognition in her career that she deserves and a husband who is also a doctoral student, a chaotic household, and the moments that led her to decisions which she doesn't seem to regret.

Gripping and engrossing, The Lost Daughter, Maggie Gyllenhaal's directorial debut, presents a riveting, haunting psychological drama which taunts and mocks with authenticity. The cast delivers exceptional minimalist performances. The Lost Daughter begins streaming on Netflix nationwide December 31, 2021. See it.


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Country: USA.

Language: English.

Runtime: 121minutes.

Director: Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Writer: Maggie Gyllenhaal, based on The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante.

Producer: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Osnat Handelsman-Keren, Talia Kleinhendler.

Cast: Olivia Colman, Dakota Johnson, Jessie Buckley, Ed Harris, Peter Sarsgaard, Dagmara Dominczyk, Paul Mescal, Jack Farthing, Robyn Elwell, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Ellie Mae Blake, Panos Koronis, Alexandros Mylonas, Alba Rohrwacher, Nikos Poursanidis, Athena Martin Anderson.