“The Lost Daughter”: the past like a tide

In order to chase away the existential grayness, Leda decided to take a trip to Greece. With delight, she discovers her rental apartment where a hearty basket of fruit awaits her. However, when she picked up an orange, she noticed that the rot had spread from below. The image acts as a bad omen, even as a metaphor. Indeed, Leda’s vacation will be anything but idyllic. Loosely based on a novel by Elena Ferrante, The Lost Daughter (Stolen doll), award for best screenplay in Venice for its director Maggie Gyllenhaal, features another splendid performance by Olivia Colman.

Literature professor and emeritus translator in her forties, Leda sees her peace of mind undermined from the second day of her vacation, when a noisy and vulgar family arrives on the small beach where she is resting. Almost in spite of herself, Leda focuses her attention on one of the members of the clan, Nina, a young mother struggling with a difficult child.

Already quick to introspection, loneliness helping, here Leda is assailed by a flood of troubled memories of the time when she herself was an overwhelmed young mother and, we gradually discover, deeply unhappy. With sharpness, and without flinching, The Lost Daughter thus explores the taboo subject of maternal regret.

At the option of backtracking sometimes taking flash impressionist, sometimes from the long narrative segment, one takes little by little the full measure of Leda’s existential distress in the past, between two girls whom she loves but who siphon off all her energy, a blind and deaf spouse in her distress (and little concerned with fairness) and professional aspirations that could not be more legitimate.

As she revisits the choices she has made over the days, Leda finds herself more and more involved in Nina’s life. Is the latter going through a situation similar to Leda’s in the past, or is Leda just getting caught up in the game of projection? And that’s without taking into account the fact that those close to Nina, beneath an exterior of coarse bonhomie, seem to hide a sinister nature.

Immediate empathy

In this regard, one of the many qualities of this first film by Maggie Gyllenhaal, a seasoned actress, is to nourish the ambiguity on a whole bunch of elements without seeking to provide, in the long term, a definitive answer. In the context of a psychological study such as this one, this bias is far from frustrating, and on the contrary contributes to densifying a wonderfully complex portrait of a woman.

Of course, not everything is right. For example, the expatriate handyman character played by the otherwise excellent Ed Harris (who had not been seen dancing since Creepshow !) seems to be tackled. The repetitive developments concerning a certain doll, an object of fundamental symbolic importance, also end up boring.

In a role that sometimes makes one think of a serious version of Shirley ValentineOscar winner Olivia Colman The Favorite (The favorites), once again gives off an impression of naturalness such that you immediately empathize with your character. Note that, in the twenty-something version of Leda, Jessie Buckley, seen in I’m Thinking of Ending Things (I just wanna end it), is equally convincing. The composition of Dakota Johnson, unrecognizable in Nina, is just as worth mentioning.

Captivated, we follow Leda as she seeks to find, in the present but in the light of the past, the source of what is still rotting her existence. A regrettable decision in the past, or conversely, not taken on to the end? Here again, Maggie Gyllenhaal is found to be more inclined to raise thorny questions than to provide easy answers. What we are grateful to him.

Stolen doll (French version of The Lost Daughter)


Psychological drama by Maggie Gyllenhaal. With Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley, Dakota Johnson, Ed Harris, Peter Sarsgaard. United States – Greece, 2021, 121 minutes. In theaters December 17 and on Netflix from December 31.

Watch video


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *