Maggie Gyllenhaal has wowed us with brilliant acting performances, but her directorial debut on The Lost Daughter demonstrates that she is perhaps better suited for a career behind the camera. Adapted from Elena Ferrante’s novel with the same name, The Lost Daughter has received rave reviews from critics and fans. 

Fans have hailed Olivia Colman’s performance as the film’s protagonist, Leda, as one of the best of the year. The Lost Daughter is about Leda, her past choices, and how they’ve shaped her perception of motherhood in the present. 

The Lost Daughter is scary in its portrayal of motherhood as a burden

The Lost Daughter isn’t your typical scary flick. It gives you a sense that something sinister lurks within Leda, but it’s nothing supernatural, greed-related, murderous, or anything you’d get from a thriller film. Leda’s taboo lies in her perception of motherhood as a burden. 

Mothers are expected to nurture their children with boundless love and patience. Flashbacks reveal that Leda had two children that she loved and cared for without the help of a clueless husband. 

However, Leda also had ambitions that motherhood hindered – ambitions that made her resent having children. Leda didn’t hate her children – she indulged them, taught them how to play and read, and held them with affection.

Other times, however, she was unreasonable and vindictive towards her daughters. Leda sees herself in Nina (Dakota Johnson), a young mother struggling to raise her daughter without a husband and motherhood’s ‘natural’ instincts. 

Gyllenhaal’s trick is that she doesn’t reveal the above at once. She leaves us to figure out the confusing Lena by ourselves, which can fill one with dread as her intentions and moods seem to shift as abruptly as the waves in the Greek sea. 

Is The Last Daughter scary? Yes and no. It’s psychologically thrilling but doesn’t build to a frightening conclusion. Yet, the film explores a theme rarely tackled in film – the idea that motherhood doesn’t come naturally to all women. 

That might scare some people as Gyllenhaal exposes us to a reality previously spoken in hushed tones.