Movie review: Kerry actress Jessie Buckley in slow-burning psychological thriller, The Lost Daughter

Movie review: Kerry actress Jessie Buckley in slow-burning psychological thriller, The Lost Daughter

The film contrasts ideals of motherhood with the crippling burden of societal expectations

The Lost Daughter: Jessie Buckley as young Leda. Picture: Yannis Drakoulidis/Netflix

Fri, 17 Dec, 2021 – 16:01

★★★★☆

Adapted from a novel by Elena Ferrante, The Lost Daughter (15A) opens on a Greek island with Leda (Olivia Colman), a professor of comparative literature, enjoying a solo vacation. 

When a brash American family arrive to colonise the tiny beach she has come to consider her own, Leda is initially irritated, but soon finds herself drawn to Nina (Dakota Fanning), a young woman who seems to be struggling to cope with her irrepressible toddler. 

Olivia Colman in The Lost Daughter

When we learn, via flashback, that the younger Leda (played by Jessie Buckley) also found herself traumatised by the stress of establishing her academic credentials whilst trying to rear two young girls with little help from their father, Joe (Jack Farthing), Leda’s willingness to help Nina with her child begins to resemble a rather ominous obsession … 

Written and directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal, who is making her directorial debut, The Lost Daughter is a slow-burning psychological thriller that contrasts ideals of motherhood with the crippling burden of societal expectations. 

Jessie Buckley as young Leda; Peter Sarsgaard as Professor Hardy. Picture: Yannis Drakouidis/Netflix

‘I am an unnatural mother,’ Leda confesses to Nina at one point, a statement that is only true if it is unnatural to want more from life than to be tucked away into a convenient pigeonhole, but certainly causes us to wonder how far Leda was prepared to go in order to achieve the freedom she has always craved. 

Maggie Gyllenhaal has assembled an impressive cast here — Ed Harris and Paul Mescal fill out some of the supporting roles — but for the most part this an absorbing character study of its central character, with Olivia Colman in superb form as a woman clinging desperately to the very last vestige of self-control. 

(cinema release)

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