Olivia Colman is simply one of our greatest actresses. She has been steadily working for two decades. Olivia began by appearing in a ton of British TV shows and came to prominence with the Channel 4 sitcom Peep Show in 2003. Her talent entered my radar with a recurring role on the TV series Fleabag (2016–2019). She famously portrayed Queen Elizabeth II in the Netflix period TV drama The Crown from 2019 to 2020. Academy Award nominations for the movies The Favourite and The Father cemented her status. Incidentally, she won Best Actress for The Favourite over American acting legend Glenn Close (The Wife) no less. Her latest tour de force is a psychological drama called The Lost Daughter. She’s fantastic and (I’m predicting) will likely garner her third Oscar nomination in four years. Maggie Smith and Judi Dench, please welcome Olivia Colman to the fold. She is a national treasure.
The Lost Daughter is the chronicle of a middle-aged divorcee. Leda is a literature professor on holiday by herself in Greece. She has a very prickly rapport with motherhood. During the account, she reveals she has two adult children, aged 23 and 25. Leda has a passive-aggressive relationship with this large, noisy family that’s also on vacation there. She is constantly irritated by the family’s behavior. When Callie (Dagmara Domińczyk) asks her to move from her spot on the beach, she declines. Callie, who is pregnant, later comes over to apologize. Leda has an uncomfortable conversation with the first-time mother. Leda awkwardly concludes with, “Well you’ll see. Children are a crushing responsibility.” Then promptly leaves.
We gradually learn more and more of this woman’s past as the drama unfolds. She is fascinated by another woman in the group named Nina. American actress Dakota Johnson embodies the individual with a disquieting vagueness. Johnson is proving to be quite a talented thespian herself. Nina is a young mother with a toddler girl. At one point the story concerns a missing doll. This development causes Leda to think back in time to when she was an inexperienced mother. The present-day flashbacks to a younger Leda played by Jessie Buckley.
At the center of The Lost Daughter is the fully realized and understated performance by Olivia Colman. It’s an achievement that’s sure to garner awards. Her interactions with this family and other people on the island can be unsettling. Actress Maggie Gyllenhaal is making her impressive directorial debut. She wisely keeps things intimate and intense. There’s a sinister mood that percolates beneath the surface. It is a most compelling narrative that meticulously lays the groundwork for a boffo conclusion. Sadly the denouement elicits the inevitable discontent of a promise unfulfilled. This fascinating depiction is resolved with an ending that is as ambiguous as it is supremely unsatisfying. I had developed so much admiration for the intensity of this chronicle. The saga begs for some definitive epiphany. Unfortunately, it tarnished my enthusiasm.