THE LOST DAUGHTER review

by Taylor T. Carlson




THE LOST DAUGHTER is directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal; this is her directorial debut. The film stars Olivia Colman, Dakota Johnson, Jessie Buckley, Peter Sarsgaard, and Ed Harris. The film is based on Elena Ferrante's novel. Leda is a college professor and mother who has taken a holiday to a beautiful Greek resort. Once she arrives, she encounters and meets several people, including resort staff and a family who includes a pregnant woman preparing for motherhood who Leda finds herself infatuated with. Before long, Leda wants to learn and know more, and also flashes back to her past and memories with her daughters as children and the man she was once in love with. THE LOST DAUGHTER is perhaps most noteworthy for being the feature film directorial debut of Maggie Gyllenhaal, who has long made a name for herself as an actress. Sadly, this truly is the film's most memorable aspect, as the movie itself is a two-hour slog that can't decide what it wants to be. Olivia Colman does a decent job with the material she's given, and the exotic Greek scenery is certainly a sight for sore eyes. But the movie's all over the place, introducing too many subplots and characters, biting off more than it can chew throughout its duration. Where I will give THE LOST DAUGHTER credit is its scenery and its leading lady. In all honestly, Colman manages to shine in her scenes, and the movie's weaknesses lie in places other than the casting. It truly is interesting to see her interactions with everyone else, and the exotic Greek scenery is easy on the eyes. It looks good and there's a beautiful and interesting leading lady, but is that enough? Sadly, the answer is no. What should've been an intriguing character study of a woman in a crossroads of her life instead comes off as lacking direction and any real points of interest. When Leda arrives in the Greek resort, she meets an older handyman of sorts, played by Ed Harris. Harris is wasted here, only showing up in the movie enough so that we're reminded he exists, with that subplot going nowhere. In another scene, she treats a younger man at the resort to a meal, and the story once again goes nowhere. THE LOST DAUGHTER is, well, lost. It dangles so many plot threads and characters in front of our faces, and does nothing with them. Even Leda behaves inconsistently from scene to scene. In one scene she refuses to move on the beach for a family who wants to sit together. Why? We're regularly given more questions than answers, and the end results don't work. THE LOST DAUGHTER can't quite even seem to decide what its main plot should be. Is this supposed to be a character study of Leda, looking back on her past life and getting to where she is now as a lonely and disillusioned 40-something professor? Is it supposed to be a story of her infatuation with another woman? The movie is a tedious exercise in slow burn, and there's basically no payoff when we hit the end of its running time. It's especially disappointing considering the talent involved on both sides of the camera. I have no doubt Maggie Gyllenhaal's next project will be superior. THE LOST DAUGHTER lost me; it was a struggle to get through, and this is especially disappointing considering nearly every other aspect of the film should've come together to make for something great. I have no doubt they'll be some Oscar buzz on some parts of the movie, but it doesn't change the fact that I found it a bore. You're better off imagining yourself on a Greek holiday than watching this film.