Movie Review: The Lost Girl

Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut is a fascinating and nuanced look at motherhood

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The lost girl is the last case of a movie with MLTS – Syndrome of the Deceptive Trailer. Between the deep bass music, the weird whispers, and the creepy, mysterious air of Olivia Colman, you’d be forgiven for expecting some sort of Girl on the train , which is-even-true-here thriller. You might still expect it deep in the film’s two hours, waiting for the inevitable twist. Well – spoiler alert – the twist is there is no twist.


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This is not a review of the film, just the trailer. The lost girl , based on a 2006 novel by Elena Ferrante, and a writing / directing debut for actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, is a fascinating examination of motherhood and the alleged selflessness of those who engage in it.

Colman plays Leda, an Italian literature professor taking a solo vacation on a small Greek island. Caring Lyle (Ed Harris) helps her settle in, and the next morning she is reading on the beach when she realizes she is far from alone here. Extended family descend to shore like a flock of bickering birds – loud children, louder young men and harassed women, including young mother Nina (Dakota Johnson), who panics when she loses track of his daughter. Leda helps reunite mother and child, but impulsively keeps the child’s doll.


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The doll’s presence, so similar to the one she owned, sends Leda into blackouts. And this is where a fortuitous casting comes in. Jessie Buckley looks a bit like Colman and, with her accent just so, is quite believable as a young Leda, trying to balance college life with a working husband and two daughters looking to be around seven and five. year.

During many flashbacks, we see Leda having fun with her children but also being annoyed by them, overwhelmed by their needs, and, in a scene that many young parents will sympathize with (if only secretly), delighted when the work briefly takes him away from them. . She’s not a bad mother, just a stressed mother.

Gyllenhaal fairly perfectly balances the here and now with the then and the there, showing how past experience can influence our current decisions in ways that may seem irrational even to ourselves. And, conversely, how an event in the present can suddenly send us back to a memory of a previous trauma or joy.


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This all leads to a revelation of something that happened to Leda when she was a young mother herself. So yeah, there is some sort of twist, but probably not the one you’d expect. Along the way, she becomes more and more anxious and angry with the disturbances of her fellow vacationers, who are truly thugs, their rambunctious behavior always threatening to turn into real violence.

But it is the institution of motherhood that is at the forefront of this drama. (A strange word, institution; applied to prisons, asylums, and parenthood.) Leda was once thrilled to spend time away from her young daughters, she says, because she’s selfish. But she longed to be back with them for the same reason. “I am not a natural mother,” she concludes.

Maybe, but viewers will be forgiven for finding themselves just as unnatural in their feelings. Perhaps the biggest plot twist is the one it creates in your own head.

The Lost Daughter opens December 17 in theaters and December 31 on Netflix.

3.5 out of 5 stars



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About Herbert L. Leonard

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