“The Lost Daughter,” directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal, premiered at the London Film Festival (LFF) and has since captivated audiences with its profound exploration of motherhood, identity, and the hidden facets of women’s lives. Based on the novel by Elena Ferrante, the film features a powerhouse performance by Olivia Colman, supported by a talented cast including Jessie Buckley and Ed Harris.

The Lost Daughter Review
The Lost Daughter Review

Gyllenhaal’s debut as a director is a nuanced, thought-provoking adaptation that delves deeply into the psyche of its protagonist, offering a haunting and introspective cinematic experience.

  • Writer and Director: Maggie Gyllenhaal
  • Editor: Affonso Gonçalves
  • Lead Actress: Olivia Colman
  • Supporting Actress: Jessie Buckley
  • Supporting Actor: Ed Harris

Main Review

“The Lost Daughter” follows Leda Caruso, played by Olivia Colman, a middle-aged professor on a solo holiday in a seaside town. Her peaceful retreat takes a dark turn when she becomes obsessed with a young mother, Nina (Dakota Johnson), and her daughter. This seemingly innocent fixation stirs up unsettling memories of Leda’s own tumultuous experiences with motherhood, leading to a psychological unraveling that blurs the lines between past and present.

The film’s narrative is a compelling exploration of the complexities of maternal guilt and the sacrifices demanded by motherhood. Gyllenhaal skillfully interweaves flashbacks of a younger Leda, portrayed by Jessie Buckley, to reveal the burdens and choices that have shaped her present self. This dual timeline effectively illustrates the long-lasting impact of Leda’s decisions and the internal conflict that plagues her.


Olivia Colman delivers a mesmerizing performance as Leda, capturing the character’s vulnerability, regret, and longing with subtlety and depth. Colman’s portrayal is both sympathetic and unsettling, allowing the audience to empathize with her struggles while also questioning her actions. Jessie Buckley is equally compelling as the younger Leda, conveying a sense of urgency and desperation that contrasts sharply with Colman’s more restrained demeanor.

Ed Harris provides solid support as Lyle, an American expat who forms an ambiguous relationship with Leda. His performance adds a layer of intrigue and complexity to the story, highlighting Leda’s isolation and her yearning for connection.

Direction and Cinematography

Maggie Gyllenhaal’s direction is assured and introspective, effectively capturing the novel’s contemplative tone. She brings a distinctly feminine perspective to the story, emphasizing the unspoken pressures and societal expectations placed on women. The film’s pacing is deliberately slow, allowing the audience to fully immerse themselves in Leda’s internal turmoil.

The cinematography by Hélène Louvart is another standout aspect of the film. The use of close-ups and intimate framing draws viewers into Leda’s world, while the sun-drenched, idyllic setting contrasts sharply with the protagonist’s inner darkness. The visual language of the film enhances its themes, creating a hauntingly beautiful atmosphere that lingers long after the credits roll.


“The Lost Daughter” is a remarkable debut from Maggie Gyllenhaal, showcasing her talent as both a writer and director. The film’s introspective narrative, combined with outstanding performances from Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley, makes it a compelling and thought-provoking watch. Through its exploration of motherhood and identity, “The Lost Daughter” offers a poignant reflection on the choices women make and the lasting impact of those decisions. It is a film that challenges and resonates, leaving a lasting impression on its audience.

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