a disturbing mother’s illness

A few chills for New Year’s Eve. Awarded in September at the Venice Film Festival (prize for best screenplay), the first feature film by actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Lost Daughter, adapted from the novel by Elena Ferrante Stolen doll (Gallimard, 2009), is broadcast on Netflix from Friday, December 31. Leda (Olivia Colman), a literature teacher, close to fifty, comes to spend a study holiday by the sea, on a Greek island. Very quickly, her stay was disrupted by the daily arrival of a somewhat noisy band on the beach, who disembarked from a motor boat: the presence of these young couples, the laughter and the arguments seem to revive memories in this lonely woman.

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In particular, there’s this tense young mother, Nina (Dakota Johnson), who never has a minute to herself with her baby girl hanging from her neck. The husband does not seem very understanding, the eyes begin to darken. Then the bad mood gives way to panic when the little one gets lost and cannot be found for a few hours. We recover it safe and sound, but the drama is elsewhere: the girl lost her doll, a kind of blanket, during her escapade. She becomes inconsolable.

Sticky atmosphere

Maggie Gyllenhaal launches several false leads of suspense before focusing on the somewhat mysterious, even poisonous behavior of Leda, who imperceptibly approaches Nina, gains her confidence. We expect the worst, but Leda is not a monster, nor The Lost Daughter a genre film. The director succeeds in installing a sticky, diffuse atmosphere, carried by the play of Olivia Colman: the actress works a lot with the gaze, between softness and darkness, invents a hesitant gesture, moving her slightly heavy shell to express the flaw that without cease threatens his character to fall into madness.

“The Lost Daughter” does not always manage to escape the cliché of the explanatory melody

Leda is a woman who seems to be “a beautiful person”, but her murky demeanor would tend to prove otherwise. To explore this scenario, after all banal, The Lost Daughter does not always manage to escape the cliché of the explanatory melody. Some flashbacks come in reinforcement, making emerge real characters (Jessie Buckley, Peter Sarsgaard).

The second part of the film thus turns out to be the most delicate, from a staging point of view, due to the insistence with which Maggie Gyllenhaal scrutinizes her character – the trauma of the mother, not too much. The Lost Daughter is often watched over by an underlying feminist discourse – certainly respectful and crucial, on the theme of motherhood not always happy – which ends up removing the mystery from this atmospheric work.

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