THE LOST DAUGHTER (2021) – Perils of an unnatural mother

Rating: ⭐⭐ 1/2

As a first time directorial effort by actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Lost Daughter is an impressive piece of work. It tackles the difficult theme of motherhood gone wrong, and what that can do to a person for the rest of her life. Of course, she has the benefit of a very able cast and a tight script that hints at things without giving away too much, to help elevate the movie to arthouse material.

Academy Award winning actress Olivia Colman plays a middle aged lone vacationer in a small coastal town in Greece. Her seemingly idyllic vacation is rudely interrupted by a a noisy group of fellow vacationers. Her increasingly irrational behaviours and past catches up on her as she reminiscent her younger days told in flashbacks. Jessie Buckley plays the younger version of the Colman character. Both managed to paint a multi-faceted character that successfully takes a hold of the viewers’ attention from the start to finish. Indeed the Lost Daughter becomes a gripping watch in spite of its slow burn pacing, and distressing and a not often addressed theme of abandonment. In a tale of such nature it is easy for a viewer to form judgement on its characters. However, The Lost Daughter’s portrayal of this “unnatural mother” is done in a manner that does not make you want to make a judgement. Being human means being vulnerable to one’s own weaknesses. Nobody can be deemed as perfect.

Providing a nice supporting act were Dakota Johnson, Ed Harris and Peter Sarsgaard. Despite their brief appearances, they managed to make their individual characters stand out with their own unique personalities. Hence, providing the film’s strongest asset – its performances.

While the film works in most part, for me, its story and especially its crucial ending just felt too ambiguous. That’s where the movie and probably the original story in which it is was based in, disappointed me most. It’s title alone can be interpreted in many ways in the sense of “who” the “lost daughter” is being referred to. This is not necessarily a bad thing since we should not be too accustomed to being spoon fed on a story. However, its confusing ending scene was pretty much left to the viewer to interpret. I hate it when that happens. I also could not understand the motivation behind some of the actions taken by the characters especially that relating to a child’s doll. These irritations could not be ignored and I have to admit distracted me from a fully satisfying watch.

Whatever your preference and taste is, give The Lost Daughter a watch by all means, simply for its boldness in its style and deviation from the norm.

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