The Lost Daughter

The Lost Daughter
The Lost Daughter
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Children aren’t playthings. Think cherubic or precocious, kids can be very hard headed— they punch, scream, weep, lie and can even make their mothers forsake their life for them to go on living. They do not really deserve any blame but demand a kind of patience and mercy above all attention from some people who cannot give it away: claiming that every woman should be a mother means to have many bad parents and children which are unhappy as well. A few individuals think they want children; they mean dolls.

Subtly and enigma characterize The Lost Daughter film that premiered recently. In the movie, Olivia Colman portrays Leda Caruso, an isolated woman holidaying at a Greek beach where she meets a large family with a young beautiful mother and her daughter. Leda is aloof and strangely cold expressing the peculiar way Brits behave when politely refusing help towards some kind of existential crisis exhibited in slow motion.

As Leda looks on while mother Nina (played by Dakota Johnson) tenderly plays with her child a question mark is raised about the woman’s background. One day Nina’s daughter disappears at the beach starting off flashbacks about Leda as a mother (in these scenes she is played by Jessie Buckley), revealing how unprepared this woman was for parenting? She doesn’t seem capable of paying attention to her children- when her baby cries out in pain she covers her ears with headphones, refuses to give him a kiss on his injured finger when he asks for it, seems to resent having been taken away from marriage or career because of them and breaks glass tossing things around. “I hate talking to my kids on the phone,” she says once more. “Stop saying such things”, replies another man overlooking what she has just said.

Leda finds Nina’s daughter who then thanks the older woman tearfully and breathlessly; their eyes meet several times indicating that they share thoughts concerning their motherhood’s frustrations. The family members appreciate Leda, but never realize that the elderly woman has stolen away the little girl’s doll, which she then becomes unhealthily obsessed with. And unfortunately, Nina’s daughter won’t forget about the doll and neither will her rough and tough family. From here on out, it is a bizarre adult movie about motherhood as well as abandonment and secrets.

She continues to demonstrate this by giving an even more stripped down performance in The Lost Daughter consisting of simple actions and line readings that imply so much more. “You don’t have kids?” a lady asks her. “Yes, I have two daughters”, replies Leda. “Where are they?” Leda takes a moment before she says without any reply, “Children are a crushing responsibility.” All of her lines are great and every move she makes is perfect; hence she carries the film until its beautiful completion.

The film becomes genuinely suspenseful as it progresses, because Nina’s family may suppose that their doll was stolen by Leda. Terrifying looks and violent conduct of men among Nina’s (perhaps, Mafia-related) relatives inculcate a real sense of danger, but she is strangely determined to keep the doll (which eventually turns out to be a transparent yet apt metaphor for so much suffering). Throughout the entire movie there is an unusual kind of tension; however, it is at this point that its ending really enhances this atmosphere.

Incredibly, Maggie Gyllenhaal makes her debut in writing and directing with this film. During the process of buying rights for filming the book adaptation, the actor wrote Elena Ferrante, the author. In response to her letter Ferrante replied: “Yes you can have rights but unless you direct it yourself this contract is void.” Consequently, Gyllenhaal ended up being in charge of this masterpiece for adults. After acting in film for thirty years (with high marks), she must have picked up some behind-the-camera skills because her work here appears instinctively brilliant.

She begins shooting the film like Helene Louvart shoots most French films; where it is slightly shaky and often zoomed-in. The title sequence will instantly become iconic as a jittery camera claustrophobically follows Colman before pulling back to show she stands shoeless on a beach somewhere. She falls down with her line vertical now horizontal and parallel to crashing waves just when Dickon Hinchliffe’s catchy romantic score bursts forth into nothingness. Hinchliffe’s music kills here; as part of long-lived indie band The Tindersticks he knows how to make pop music which relates instead of distracts from what’s seen. Actually this score feels honestly like a classic composition derived from some great fictional 60’s Hollywood movie.

The actors Gyllenhaal brought along are perfect complements to the story. Besides Colman’s powerful performance, Peter Sarsgaard, Ed Harris, Paul Mescal, and the aforementioned Johnson and Buckley are phenomenal with how each of them relate to the lonely protagonist in their own particular ways. Leda elicits various emotions from everyone she meets depending on how close they are to her and how much she tells them; each of the cast members does a great job of locating this disgust, envy, lust, rage, concern and pity for one another. However it is the tenuous connection that forms between Nina and Leda that pulses through this often detached film. Leda exists on one side of abandoning her children, with Nina, perhaps, on the other. They meet in a world which expects motherhood to be one thing; outsiders suffer alone here.

Affonso Goncalves’ editing is notable too where it concerns characters past relations. He gradually brings together two different timescales and families beautifully like some emotional architecture by bridging together Leda’s past and present while structuring several spaces in the film as a whole. Through editing more than actual dialogue or interaction he and Gyllenhal jointly force home their parenting difficulties and personal issues upon viewers using reverse shots accompanied by non-linear cuts.

Motherhood is a splendid occurrence, so are kids, however this does not happen for all. “When the eldest one was seven and the youngest five I left,” Leda says to Nina. “I left them there and for three years I never saw my children.”

“What was it like without them?” Nina wondered.

“Unbelievable” This line, delivered with immense poise by Colman who is also crying softly as she delivers it, captures the bizarre paradox of her character. She knows that leaving her children was wrong but feels happier because of it. She’d rather focus on something else — an affair, a job, love, literature or herself personally—anything rather than her own offspring. This is a radical thought to present in any film but liberating for women. The Lost Daughter is a feminist masterpiece in its own horrid and enigmatic way

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