Stories centred around motherhood tend to follow a pattern and always have characters that take a strong stance, whether it is about believing that having children is the thing that women should do or believing that children are not a vocation that every woman should do can adhere to. The Lost Daughter is that painfully honest opinion that is rarely explored, whether motherhood is for everyone and how admitting that you regret having children is one of the most prominent taboo subjects. So much so, it is never once said out loud.
While on holiday alone, Leda becomes intrigued by a woman with her young daughter who visits the same beach as her every day. Travelling with her extensive and intrusive family, Leda watches her from afar until one day she interacts with them when she helps find the little girl after she goes missing. These moments evoke memories of her early days of motherhood, and she slowly begins to unravel, especially when she impulsively steals the girl’s doll, unaware of the chaos that could be caused.
With thoughts expressed in the written form, these inner moments are not quite translated across, left with actions and expressions that do not wholly explain Leda’s mental state. There is mystery throughout when it just concerns Leda. Never really fully understanding her motives for anything makes the story feel incomplete. The split time story at times takes you out of both stories. What happened when her children were young? What’s happening to her now? It’s almost a disruption, yet both parts are needed to illustrate Leda’s story.
As brilliant as ever, Olivia Colman is thrust out of the confines of a typical drama and into a character that is conflicted about the decisions she made, whether she did the right thing or not. There are moments where she comes across as practical and makes statements in a matter-of-fact way, lightening the gravity of the conversation about why she left her children. Played opposite to Dakota Johnson’s Nina, a young mother who is scared to admit she feels the exact same as Leda once did. This very poignant theme is about motherhood and how not everyone is built for such a role. However, it is a much larger topic that isn’t explored as much as you would hope. Especially with the flashbacks to younger Leda literally saying she feels suffocated by her children and the responsibility. This is about Leda and her choices, not really about the subject. Never the less, Maggie Gyllenhaal has created an admiral debut and shows a very keen eye for framing. If this is her version of an adaptation, it would be intriguing to see an original.
The Lost Daughter will be streaming on Netflix 31 December