Review: The Lost Daughter (2021 San Diego Film Festival)

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Title: The Lost Daughter
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Maggie Gyllenhaal
Starring: Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley, Dakota Johnson, Ed Harris
Runtime: 2h 1min

What It Is: A woman’s sunny, seaside retreat starts to become increasingly eclipsed with tension when her past memories return from the shadows.

What We Think: A fantastic directorial debut from Maggie Gyllenhaal! The Lost Daughter surprises, chills and humors the audience with a witty and also profound screenplay – the performances of which are incredible. Without giving too much away, the story is quite the slow burn; the tension is built wonderfully throughout its runtime, but it also keeps important moments that take place in both past and present consistent with that same tension. It’s never an easy task to flash-forwards and backward without having the story feel confused, and this film executes those scenes quite well through great sound design and intrinsically placed dialogue, making for a very intriguing mystery.

The actors do a fantastic job here, most notably Olivia Colman and Jesse Buckley (who play the same character). The themes of maternity play an extremely important role in the film, and the contrast between a young and older version of the character is fascinating to see. What emotional baggage has she carried with her? What events in the film change her? And perhaps the biggest question of all: who is the lost daughter – herself or her kin? The Lost Daughter both answers and further obscures these questions, and proves to be a film that will leave various audience members with different interpretations… the sign of a great thriller! The cinematography was excellent as well, the ambiance of the seaside Greek villas being inviting and also fitting for the film’s mysterious tones – it makes the film’s visuals feel like a mix between Call Me By Your Name and Halloween (an odd combination, I know, but it’s very pleasing to look at).

The immersive nature of the film’s visuals and performances are also complimented by Dickon Hinchliffe’s score, which contains some stirring and unnerving pieces to complete The Lost Daughter’s puzzle. Of course, everything culminates in a deeply unnerving and revealing finale, and once again I must reiterate the great performances Colman and Buckley deliver – Colman a chipper yet somewhat scarred and saddened version of her former self, Buckley being delightful and deceptive as her haunting past is uncovered… brilliant.

Our Grade: A; The spectacular directing, writing, and performances are the crux of this film – The Lost Daughter is a great thriller and I can’t wait to see it again in theaters or on streaming once it releases.

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