“Lost Daughter” Maggie Gyllenhaal with Olivia Coleman and Dakota Johnson starring explores young motherhood and its impact on identity. Here are some movies that make it better.
Maggie Gyllenhaal’s thrilling first directorial film “Lost Daughter” tells the story of Leda (Olivia Coleman), a gifted scientist with a mysterious past who is obsessed with her young mother Nina (Dakota Johnson) during a beach holiday in the Greek islands.
Despite the charm of a remote island reminiscent of movies like “Mamma Mia,” Gyllenhaal’s seductive cinematography and dreamy episodes create a much more eerie atmosphere. The film opens with a shaky close-up, in which Leda walks along the beach, a misty beep hums and waves crash. Seconds after she falls onto the cliffs, a lively blues track passes into the frame as Leda behind the wheel before she meets her charming beach caretaker Lila (Ed Harris).
Stylistically, the film is relatively predictable, interspersed with memories of the Lady as a young mother (Jesse Buckley), scenes with her two young daughters and scenes depicting her as a somewhat embittered scientist on a solo vacation. At the same time, it features incredibly thoughtful and detailed performances by its main female cast, leading to soulful, awkward studies of the characters.
“Lost Daughter” is a portrait of motherhood without any idealism, which is usually associated with it. Instead, it reveals the burden of parenthood and its detrimental effects on self-identity, especially for women. In a particularly painful scene, Nina asks with tears when “it” will pass – an indescribable, unnamed burden of motherhood, to which Leda says no.
“Lost Daughter” is an incredible example of empathy, not condemnation of an unpleasant, imperfect mother. This is certainly not the first film in which this has been done, and not the most successful, but his sensitive attitude to the subject requires open viewing.
At the same time, “Lost Daughter” constantly felt that she was missing something, as if there was something bigger Gyllenhaal could do or turn on to complete what would otherwise seem like an unfinished portrait. The most obvious contributing factor is the ambiguous ending of the film, but its use of flashbacks to address the root of Lady’s maternal shortcomings also proves inadequate to successfully unpack the confusing themes the film tries to confront.
The next five films, on the other hand, use more sophisticated film skills to approach similar themes and unique character studies, in turn filling some gaps in “The Lost Daughter”.
“Mom” Xavier Dolana (2014) follows single mother Diana (Anne Dorval) and troubled son Steve (Antoine Olivier Pilon), who try to navigate their complex relationships and relevant roles with the help of a strange neighbor Kayla (Susan Clement). As a portrait of a non-traditional relationship and a forced relationship – the very relationship of the sides of the film reflects the vertical position of vertical photography – the unique story of Dolan’s maturation is incredibly playful and incomparably stunning. Dolan makes moments of unexpected violence and angry anger almost comedic, illustrating the enduring love between mother and son and the fact that sometimes it is still not enough.
Lady Bird (2017)
Like many films about motherhood, Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird” (2017) challenges viewers to struggle with the fact that mothers are real people, sacrificing their own identity and personal desires to best fulfill the role of educator. This may seem obvious, but for example, seeing Lady Byrd’s mother (Lori Metcalfe) in a working setting with a patient is like seeing a teacher outside the classroom for the first time. As selfish as it may be, it’s hard to imagine moms living outside of who you’re part of. Herwig’s love letter to her hometown of Sacramento and the difficult teenage experience she uses combine familiar images of maturation with a great understanding of parenthood, class, and the uncertainty of the future.
Motherhood has always been a distinctive subgenre of horror, and in a few films it has been as good as Natalie Erica James ’“ Relic ”(2020). The film tells the story of Kay (Emily Mortimer) and her daughter Sam (Bella Heathcote), who are looking for family matriarch Edna (Robin Nevin), who recently went missing. Disguised as a typical film of the jumping genre, “Relic” – anything, but instead turns out to be an incredible allegory of dementia. With a level of nuance rare in horror films, three generations of actresses skillfully delve into their roles, exploring not one but several versions of the archetypal relationship between mother and daughter and their development over time.
The Room (2015)
The Oscar-winning film for Best Actress, Leni Abrahamson’s “Room” (2015), tells the story of an unnamed woman and her 5-year-old son Jack (Jacob Tremblay) who were held captive for seven years. The film’s protagonist, known only as “Ma,” emphasizes the idea of motherhood as a single identity, even though it was only part of her life. The cramped garden shed, where most of the film takes place, reflects the suffocating nature of motherhood, which is further explored after the two have finally been able to escape. Larson’s character is forced to assimilate back into a life she has only ever felt childless, and the film becomes a soulful exploration of post-traumatic stress disorder. The film’s emphasis on Ma’s insecurities as a mother in no way contradicts Jack’s tender love and attention, despite the difficult circumstances – on the contrary, strengthens them.
“Parallel Mothers” (2021)
A more recent release, Pedro AlmodóVara in “Parallel Mothers” (2021) involves two women, one middle-aged and one young – JanisElopa Cruz) and Ana (Milena Smith) respectively – because they form an unexpected connection and confront motherhood with conflicting prospects and intricately intertwined lives. The film combines the female trauma of generations with important Spanish historical and social contexts, articulating an incredibly delicate, complex study of single mothers and female friendships.
At one point in “The Lost Daughter,” Leda describes herself as an “unnatural mother.” Gyllenhaal’s film and the like honor ordinary, insecure mothers by exploring the complexities of motherhood without condemning the “imperfect” woman. It is rare to see an unpleasant protagonist in a film, especially as a channel for analyzing how motherhood affects identity.
Instead of assuming that the birth of a child reinforces the identity of the “mother,” these films explore motherhood as a studied relationship between mother and child, rather than some abstract maternal instinct.
“The Lost Daughter”, “Mom”, “Lady Bird”, “Relic” and “Room” are available on at least one of several streaming platforms. “Parallel Mothers” are now going on in separate theaters.
Contact Lorena Camps at [email protected]