the lost daughter film

The Lost Daughter. Movie Review and Explanation. 2021 Movie.

Summary of the post

The following summary includes the list of the topics we will cover in our post related to “The Lost Daughter.”

Why you should watch The Lost Daughter

Released in 2021, The Lost Daugther is an intense psychological drama. A book by Elena Ferrante, with the same title, inspires the film. Mental health is a hot topic. We already met movies such as “The Starling,” “Zebra Girl” and “Saint Maud.” 

The Lost Daughter goes deeper into this topic, leaving us disturbed, with many questions without a logical explanation. Therefore, don’t expect answers. Instead, the film offers us the possibility of witnessing some of the reasons that could push a mother to the desperate movement to abandon her daughters for three years.

And the director, Meggie Gyllenhaal, does it very well. The film, perhaps, lacks pace during the narration, but it adds delicate touches to the story.  The twenty-six awards and ninety nominations prove that The Lost Daughter deserves our attention. And we will guide you through the story and our analysis to try to explain a drama inexplicable, as the author of the book written in the book:

“The hardest things to talk about are the ones we ourselves can’t understand.”

Elena Ferrante

Details about the movie

Release DateDecember 2021 in the U.S.A.
CountryU.S.A.United Kingdom
GenreDramaMental Health Family
Duration2 hours and 1 minute
DirectorMaggie Gyllenhaal
ActorsOlivia Colman (Leda) – Dagota Johnson (Nina) – Jessie Buckley (Young Leda)

The Lost Daughter – The Story

A middle-aged woman goes on a solo vacation in the beautiful location of Kyoplei. Leda is a professor who desires to enjoy some time alone and continue her writings and thinking time. Unfortunately, her plans must face a crowded family and their noises, which will challenge Leda’s mental health. But our professor connects herself with Nina, a young mother, who will awaken hidden memories and similitudes with the young Leda.

  • What links these two interesting characters?
  • What are Leda’s issues?
  • And do we understand mental health?

The Lost Daughter – Trailer

The Lost Daughter | Official Trailer | Netflix

The Lost Daugther – Explanation and Review

(This section contains SPOILERS, we suggested to watch the movie first and then enjoy it.)

Parenting is not an easy task. So 2021 brought movies such as “Fatherhood” and “Mimi” to show us the complexity and the responsibilities behind this natural gift. However, being a mother for many women may bring anxiety and many questions, with fewer answers and more doubts. Yes, because behind a mother, there are sometimes dissatisfaction and frustration because life not always goes as we planned. 

Leda can’t maintain her sanity and self-being, therefore her relationships.

Losing yourself in the reality of your life is more straightforward than expected, and you may feel to don’t be ready for this vital task. The reasons may be unclear, but people could break and, in any case, children will be the victims. Let’s be clear; Leda loved her daughters. She wants to talk to them. What she can’t do is maintain her sanity and self-being.

If a mother doesn’t feel good about herself, before judging, it becomes vital to consider what we did to support her. Even if it’s sad, a mother can quit, at least for a short time. As dark and painful as it looks, it’s a reality, and we should deal with it.

Leda is a complex character in needs for help.

That’s what The Lost Daughter offers to us.

Leda is a complex character, and we should try to break it down to understand more, comprehend it, and support who becomes a victim of this situation. Anyway, we have to listen even to the ugliest stories (like on The Final Code) because even in the nasty side of humanity, where we don’t do our best, there is still the need for love and to be understood.

It’s precisely what this film tries to do, in a delicate way, making us vulnerable because we don’t always offer our children the best version of ourselves. So, understanding and humanity are keywords in this story so that we don’t need to be ashamed to talk about something unnatural but true.

Is Leda a bad mother?

As we mentioned above, self-being and mental health are delicate topics. Leda is a woman of ambitions in her career; she has her passions, and a tender and sensible soul connects her with poetry. In addition, Leda dreams of an intense love story and sexual life that her husband seems unable to provide. It is neither the fault of either, but it’s just the reality. Therefore, Leda becomes excited about the possibility to join the working conference.

Leda in the lost daughter
When Leda drinks, she gets free of her anxietis and start living.

Anyway, there is something that blocks her. For instance, when the two hikers reached her home, she didn’t want them in. And of course, her husband did the opposite and invited them to their house. But what Leda saw as an issue becomes instead the opportunity to meet a new friend. So Leda gets drunk and starts to sing and enjoy life.

Like the alcohol made her free from her barriers and frustrations. It’s not a sin being unable to handle your passions, loved ones and even your vacations. It’s a duty to help those people and understand their troubles.

Leda tries to be nice to her daughters, but she often fails

The director does an excellent job, making sounds the little girls unbearable. Perhaps some of you found them exhausting sometimes. The truth is that she realised to be a danger for her daughters, and to quit at the moment may look like an act of love from a desperate woman more than a mother. Leda scared her children, breaking the glasses of the door. She ignored them, and her relationship with Bianca was toxic.

The Lost Daughter Boanca
Bianca is scared by her mother’s reaction.

What’s the solution in those cases?

Stay with the children to try to be a good mother? Or maybe it is better to detox yourself and prevent poisoning their childhood? On these terms, the movie may look slightly different from the boring story we seemed to be watching.

Who is The Lost Daughters?

The women in the movie don’t look happy. However, if we try to analyse each of them, we will notice a sense of emptiness and frustration. So let’s briefly explain our thesis.

Elena loses herself, then her doll.

Baby Elena probably couldn’t stand the fighting between her mum and dad. So, she started to walk and lost herself. After Leda finds her, she desperately cries because she can’t find her doll. So, in a certain way, Elena failed in the mum role of taking care of her doll.

Nina loses herself and then her daughter.

Nina is unhappy about her relationship with her husband. They were too young when they met each other. She needs to live with it because she is too scared of Toni. While battling with him, she loses her baby.

Bianca loses herself and her mum.

The parallelism between Bianca and Elena is strong, like the one between Leda and Nina. If Bianca gets lost at the beach, she changes her way Mina, the doll her mother gave her, in one of the memories scenes. Bianca deals with her mother as Leda is her doll. And the scene when Leda throw away and break the doll is a metaphor for her losing her maternity instinct. Like if she threw away her daughter, one who she can’t accept, like the heavily decorated Mina. Both Mina and Bianca are not like Leda wanted, and she can’t deal with it

Nina and Leda in the Lost Daughter
Nina and Leda. Same issue, different behaviour.

Leda loses herself and her children.

Leda’s life is not what she probably imagined. We talked about her frustrations, and we can admit that Leda is a woman lost in her fears and anxiety. Leda loses Bianca at the beach. Both Leda and Nina share a delusional relationship with their partner. A lack of love as they intended.

The Lost Daughter is a sentence we can apply to each of them because they are daughters of different mothers, but with the same lack of love, and baggage of frustrations.

Why did Leda steal the doll?

It’s complex to explain it in a few words. Leda helped us at the movie’s end, telling Nina that she wanted to play. Of course, the answer made Nina angry, but that’s the mistake we are all making. Let us explain why.

Leda is a sick character

Leda is not able to maintain any relationship:

  1. She destroyed her marriage, later her relationship with Professor Hardy;
  2. As requested by a shocked Callie, Leda doesn’t want to move her chair at the beach;
  3. Leda flirts with Will; then, she embarrasses herself, trying to do the same with Lyle;
  4. Leda found somehow Elena’s doll in her bag. She looks surprised while she steals it;

Young Leda ignores her daughter Bianca; she often can’t stand her. We notice how Leda can’t handle relationships and is excellent at ruining them. But we can’t consider her guilty because she clearly looks like someone who needs mental health support. Most of the time, Leda acts like a baby. And the need to take care of Elena’s doll is the desire to fix her past and care more for her daughters.

How did society react?

At first, Callie and her family don’t like Leda after the incident with the chair. But after Leda finds Elena, they start to take care of Leda. But it’s a family of gossip, and all of the secrets she reveals to Nina arrive at Callie’s family. They started to quickly judge Leda because she abandoned her daughters for three years. Although Leda confesses to be an unnatural mother, Nina stabbed her; as probably a large part of the spectators did.

Nina stabs Leda. She doesn’t want to be cruel and cold like her. But she stabbed her. Complex character.

Leda must leave the dance floor when the Callisto’s arrive. The film moves us until we almost agree with this quick way to understand a person. But that’s the mistake and, we think, the key to decoding this complex movie.

How to explain The Lost Daugther?

Leda is a person in need of help.

“The hardest things to talk about are the ones we ourselves can’t understand.”

Elena Ferrante

Leda doesn’t understand why she does half of the things she does. Leda is obsessive, compulsive and at war with her instinct. If we can’t show pity and mercy to a fragile soul battling with herself, it means we lost our humanity and, perhaps, we started to be sick too.

And the director shows us the good way to deal with it. Bianca and Marta are happy when they talk to her mother in their adult version in the last scene. They forgave her and accepted her, trying to support her as much as they could without judging her. But this opens another question?

Was Leda dead or alive at the end of the movie?

Nina stabbed Leda because she didn’t want to be like her and returned to her husband. So anyway, Leda chooses to leave. She stopped by at the beach and collapsed. In the morning, she “wakes up.” She received a call from her happy daughters, who worried about her. Leda starts to smile, glad to listen and talk to her daughters. Leda touches her wounds, then magically, an orange appears in her hand, and she starts peeling it while talking to her babies, like in the good old time.

Is Leda died in the lost daughter
The finale is open. Do you think Leda died?

But is this scene real?

Or this is just Leda dead and free from life and all of her anxieties? We don’t know and, perhaps, even the movie director. But the finale is touching because it shows a different kind of call received by Leda. Totally different from the one received from Marta at the beginning of the film, when Leda arrives at the beach. The tone is different from the one in the ending scene.

Leda wants to talk to Marta and share the beauties of the beach and the vacation, but Marta doesn’t care and quickly ends the call. Leda remained sad and a bit frustrated. The fact that Bianca wasn’t in the call, and they didn’t mention her let us think that the beautiful call at the end didn’t happen. Their relationship doesn’t seem fine, and the director shows us what it could be if only Marta and Bianca could understand their mother and accept her for who she is.

A good lesson for each of us, where forgiveness is the best gift we can donate because life still goes on, and we may miss meaningful opportunities.

Peel it like a snake, don’t let it break.

The call for forgiveness is strong and wants to wake up something in us. Bianca and Marta, we believe, are moved by the only act they all enjoy together: the peeling of the orange. Leda removes the peel of the orange so that it doesn’t break. The babies love it, as she does it too. It looks like a metaphor for their relationship. Even if the peel leaves the orange, it remains intact, like their connection.

The lost daughter snake
The orange snake that kept them close.

Pros, Cons and Final Rating


The performance delivered by Olivia Colman is the best part of the movie. We also need to mention Dakota Johnson because she transfers beauty, mystery and an apparent innocence to Nina’s face. The music is another positive element in the story. It brings a sad pace to the events.

We loved the complexity of the character, and perhaps this is a merit of Elena Ferrante. But we need to praise also Maggie Gyllenhaal in her first delivery because, even with some negative side, she delivered a great movie. One that lets you think, perhaps, too much.


The pace of the movie is slow. It’s a psychological film, and of course, we can’t expect action and a lot of dynamism. But the feeling is that all the drama and the tension accumulated don’t find a way out. Nevertheless, the finale is gripping and delivered in a dreaming atmosphere, confirming that Leda died.

However, the cinematography didn’t excite us. We expected a bit more when a talented cast engaged with the movie. Unfortunately, the photography doesn’t offer much to appreciate, and, perhaps, those details makes the film a bit less “artistic.”

Our final rating for The Lost Daughter is:


Where you can watch The Lost Daughter

The movie is currently available on Netflix, but check this link to see where you can watch it in your country.

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