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The Lost Daughter

Director and actor should be Oscar nominated. It's that good.

The Lost Daughter

On a summer vacation in Greece, Leda (Olivia Coleman), a 48-year-old professor from the states, confronts a raucous family with a young mother, Nina (Dakota Johnson), whose temperamental child reminds Leda of the challenges she faced as a young mother. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s first outing as a writer-director is a triumph of subtle feminism underlying a search for the disturbing layers of motherhood, including abandonment and infidelity.

Gyllenhaal displays an acceptance of life’s vagaries with goodwill and a subtle dread for the disappointments lying ahead. Coleman’s Leda is charming and disagreeable in almost equal measure. While she observes her neighbors’ frequently lame attempts at motherhood and marriage, Leda is slowly reminded of her own infidelity and child abandonment issues, expertly played as a young Leda by Jessie Buckley. Coleman navigates between now and then with the self-possession of a scholar used to the ambiguities of living and loving.

The story is not overly-complex or subtle because the characters are deliciously confused and downright naughty as folks in their late twenties are wont to be. Never are Gyllenhaal’s and Coleman’s attitudes obvious about disappointment in their fellow human beings; rather director and star are as intrigued as they are perplexed about how life turns in on itself.

Coleman won the Oscar for The Favourite, a decidedly raucous period piece set long ago. The Lost Daughter is a contemporary drama that shows her other acting chops. She will be Oscar nominated and deservedly so. Director Maggie Gyllenhaal should also be, an extraordinary occurrence for her first time out.  

Currently in cinemas and Netflix on Dec 31.

The Lost Daughter

Director: Maggie Gyllenhaal

Screenplay: Gyllenhaal from the Elena Ferrante novel

Cast: Olivia Coleman (The Favourite), Jessie Buckley (Wild Rose)

Run Time: 2h 1m

Rating: R

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at


John DeSando holds a BA from Georgetown University and a Ph.D. in English from The University of Arizona. He served several universities as a professor, dean, and academic vice president. He has been producing and broadcasting as a film critic on It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics for more than two decades. DeSando received the Los Angeles Press Club's first-place honors for national entertainment journalism.