The Lost Daughter At The Oscars Is A Tale Of Conflicted Motherhood That Could Be One Of Us Too!

Trauma left behind by parents can have a long shadow, no matter where in the world these stories happen. The Lost Daughter is one such Oscar nominated movie - a must watch.

Trauma left behind by parents can have a long shadow, no matter where in the world these stories happen. The Lost Daughter is one such Oscar nominated movie – a must watch.

The 2021 movie ‘The Lost Daughter’ available on Netflix is complex and interesting. The movie is based on the 2006 book by Elena Ferrante, translated from Italian. The protagonist Leda Caruso (Olivia Colman) is a college professor in her late 40s who ventures on a solitary holiday to a small coastal town in Greece. Leda is divorced and has two grown-up daughters, Bianca and Marta.

Initially, Leda is shown enjoying her holiday. Then she encounters young mother Nina (Dakota Johnson) and her boisterous family. Leda develops a strange fascination for the relationship between Nina and her daughter Elena. It takes her back to the time when her own daughters were young. This triggers a set of unsettling experiences.

Elena goes missing on the beach and is found by Leda. But Elena’s doll can’t be found and the little girl is inconsolable. For some reason, inexplicable to the viewer at that time, Leda has taken away the doll and hidden it in her room.

The Lost Daughter deals with trauma carried over a lifetime

Scenes of the present are interspersed with flashbacks of a young, exhausted Leda fed up with caring for her daughters single-handedly. Her husband Gianni is just too busy with work to chip in. You can’t help but empathize with the young Leda struggling to be a good mother.  Leda is also frustrated that she cannot pursue her career. Finally, she is driven to leave her husband and children for three years. She also has an affair with a fellow academic she meets at a conference.

Leda tells Nina at a shop that being away from her daughters for three years was ‘amazing’. But, she gets upset and quickly leaves the shop after her confession. In another scene, Nina admits she is depressed with motherhood herself. She too is having an affair as she finds her husband too controlling.

Why does Leda take the doll? Does the doll give her chance to play out her maternal fantasies? Is it to get over some deeply buried guilt that she abandoned her daughters when they were young? It’s anybody’s interpretation.

And, there is this scene of the young Leda peeling an orange to ‘make it look like a snake’ as requested by her daughters. The orange peeling scene is repeated in the end too. What is the significance of the scene? Is the young Leda simply bonding with her children or is there a darker interpretation? At the end, is she uncovering layers of herself as she peels the orange? Again, it’s up to the viewer to decide. Debutant director Maggie Gyllenhaal, has a superb touch but leaves many things hanging.

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Oscar worthy performances

The film received considerable critical acclaim. Olivia Colman deserves an Oscar for her depiction of a complex woman torn between her own ambitions and motherhood. Gyllenhaal has turned a comparatively low-key, subtle book into a gripping psychological drama. The film has been nominated for three Oscars in 2022 – best actress (Colman), best supporting actress (Jessie Buckley as the young Leda) and best adapted screenplay. This dark but though-provoking movie is well worth a watch. And, a long discussion.

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About the Author

Aruna Raghuram

I am a freelance journalist and write on parenting, personalities, women’s issues, environment, and other social causes. read more...

19 Posts | 13,689 Views

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