It is hard to put yourself in the shoes of a character, or characters when there is no level where you can personally connect to said characters. That is not to say that said characters nor performances lack depth, insight, direction or anything of the above, but just that the subject matter and character cannot speak to one as an individual. I am the exact opposite of the target audience for The Lost Daughter, and being a male who has no intentions of creating a human family or bringing life into this world, I certainly am arguably one of the last people that should even vaguely contemplate trying to resonate with characters experiencing traumas or reliving memories of their own motherly behaviours. The Lost Daughter brings powerhouse performances from its three leads and magnificent direction from first time director Maggie Gyllenhaal, but the movie misses the mark for me, however it is worth noting that the leads and Maggie all deserve their respective nominations and possible wins for their incredible dedication and performances that bring life to this film.
Leda, played by the incomparable Olivia Colman decides to take a vacation to Greece to escape her life, and just wants to enjoy herself until everything takes a turn from a family that gets off on the wrong foot with Leda at first, and then horrors hit the forefront and make Leda relive and recreate memories of the past. She befriends a new mother, Nina played by Dakota Johnson and takes a particularly keen interest in her and her relationship with her daughter. This slowly gets explained by flashbacks to when she was a young mother herself, where she is portrayed by Jessie Buckley. Through the flashbacks and memories, we understand the decisions that current day Leda makes, and what drives her to it, but the uneasy and unsettling ride that we get taken on throughout this journey is truly one not to be missed.
There are performances that will stick with you throughout time and transcend the movie that they’re featured in and they are rare occurrences, and it truly is a rarity for all three of the main performances to accomplish this feet. Dakota Johnson, Olivia Colman, and Jessie Buckley all deliver awards caliber performances and truly steal every second they’re present on screen. Even if its across one another, it is like watching gladiators duke it out they give hauntingly beautiful performances that will leave your jaw on the floor wanting to see more of these powerhouses deliver what they do best here on out.
As well, without undercutting the difficulty of adapting a book, directing a feature, and knowing what its like to be on the other side of the camera, Maggie Gyllenhaal proves that even though she may be a first time director there is no world that exists where anyone could possibly believe that. Her direction feels that of someone whose been mastering the craft for as long as she’s been alive, it is simply flawless and sublime to the degree that if she doesn’t take home the golden statue this year, it would honestly be considered an upset. There is something truly special about seeing such thought, craft, and magic be poured into a storytellers vision that is brought to life by performances that are so flawlessly executed about characters that are arguably so flawed. There is something truly magical about being able to experience something to this degree and be so astonished by what was delivered behind and in front of the camera, especially when the subject matter cannot grab you the way it is meant to.
The Lost Daughter boasts some of the years best performances, with some of the years best directing that certainly will resonate with the audience that the subject matter is targeted for. Whether or not you’re interested in the story, this is a film that is more than the focus of its parts but one that as a masterclass in performance, story telling and direction should be seen on that validity alone.