The Lost Daughter

The Lost Daughter ★★★★½

Watching Maggie Gyllenhaal's The Lost Daughter was a profoundly discomforting experience.

I've never seen such an unflinching depiction of motherhood. In film its usually romanticized and even the few that don't (Tully, We Need to Talk About Kevin come to mind), didn't affect me noticeably. So why did this one?

I grew up with a mother who wasn't mentally equipped in the best possible way to raise kids. She loved my sister and me, and I doubt she ever regretted having us, but it was rough in many ways. I don't blame her, she didn't know any better and did the best she could (which I can't say about my father), but there's fundamental things I'm probably going to struggle with as long as I live because of how I was brought up.

Now, as a guy, empathizing will only get me so far in understanding what it's like for women to deal with the expectations and the societal pressure to have children, to be viewed as incubators essentially. Or the nightmare that is balancing having kids with following your aspirations, professional or otherwise. But The Lost Daughter spoke to me also on a more general level.

It's about having to live with the choices you made and the feeling of guilt, the shame and the regret that comes with some of those choices. That's something most adults can relate to. In that way it reminded me of another recent meditation on life choices - Scorsese's The Irishman. Only that Maggie Gyllenhaal chose to frame her story almost like a horror thriller.

Olivia Colman is sensational as Leda, a middle-aged professor struggling with her past actions and their ramifications. She runs the gamut of what it means to be human, in all its beauty and ugliness, and she does it with such nuance and sincereness, it's awe-inspiring. I wouldn't be in the least surprised, if she wins her second Oscar come March.

Maggie Gyllenhaal also should earn nods for her direction and writing. The Lost Daughter at no point feels like a debut feature, but the work of someone who's in complete control of what she's doing. I'm glad I had the opportunity to experience it on the big screen.

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