Captivating Colman lays bare a mother’s angst: BRIAN VINER reviews The Lost Daughter 


Captivating Colman lays bare a mother’s angst: BRIAN VINER reviews The Lost Daughter


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The Lost Daughter (15, 121 minutes) 

Rating:

Verdict: Colman is absolute mustard 

Spider-Man: No Way Home (12A, 148minutes)

Rating:

Verdict: Fun, but not a marvel

Soon it will be awards season, and if Olivia Colman’s name is not on the lists of Best Actress nominations for her performance in The Lost Daughter, then, simply put, the lists will be wrong.

Jessie Buckley should also be firmly in the frame, and so too Maggie Gyllenhaal, always an engaging actress herself but here content to stand behind the camera.

The Lost Daughter is her exceedingly auspicious directorial debut.

It is an intense psychological drama, an adaptation, also scripted by Gyllenhaal, of a 2008 novel by Elena Ferrante. 

Colman plays Leda, a middle-aged academic originally from Leeds though now, it is implied, a Harvard professor.

She is on holiday on her own on a Greek island, where her tranquil beach idyll is shattered by the arrival of a boorishly boisterous family of Greek-Americans, visiting their Greek cousins.

One day, the family loses a little girl on the beach, sending everyone, but especially the child’s mother (Dakota Johnson), into a frenzied panic. 

Soon it will be awards season, and if Olivia Colman’s name is not on the lists of Best Actress nominations for her performance in The Lost Daughter , then, simply put, the lists will be wrong

Soon it will be awards season, and if Olivia Colman’s name is not on the lists of Best Actress nominations for her performance in The Lost Daughter , then, simply put, the lists will be wrong

Soon it will be awards season, and if Olivia Colman’s name is not on the lists of Best Actress nominations for her performance in The Lost Daughter , then, simply put, the lists will be wrong

Jessie Buckley should also be firmly in the frame, and so too Maggie Gyllenhaal, always an engaging actress herself but here content to stand behind the camera

Jessie Buckley should also be firmly in the frame, and so too Maggie Gyllenhaal, always an engaging actress herself but here content to stand behind the camera

Jessie Buckley should also be firmly in the frame, and so too Maggie Gyllenhaal, always an engaging actress herself but here content to stand behind the camera

This episode, and the subsequent fallout, reminds Leda of her own challenging years as a mother of two young daughters, which we visit through repeated flashbacks, with Buckley as her younger incarnation.

That is really all the synopsis you need, because to say much more would be to edge into spoiler territory. 

But the main point is that Leda is a troubled soul, whose profound feelings of guilt about her perceived inadequacies as a mother are easily stirred.

From the start, even without the loud Americans, there are symbolic suggestions, nicely handled by Gyllenhaal, that all is not entirely well in this Greek-island paradise of hers. 

In her rented apartment, some appetising-looking fruit in a bowl turns out to be rotting; the cool night air blowing in through an open window carries an alarming giant cicada onto her pillow; the beam of a nearby lighthouse keeps illuminating her bedroom at night. 

From the start, even without the loud Americans, there are symbolic suggestions, nicely handled by Gyllenhaal, that all is not entirely well in this Greek-island paradise of hers

The Lost Daughter is her exceedingly auspicious directorial debut. It is an intense psychological drama, an adaptation, also scripted by Gyllenhaal, of a 2008 novel by Elena Ferrante

The Lost Daughter is her exceedingly auspicious directorial debut. It is an intense psychological drama, an adaptation, also scripted by Gyllenhaal, of a 2008 novel by Elena Ferrante

The Lost Daughter is her exceedingly auspicious directorial debut. It is an intense psychological drama, an adaptation, also scripted by Gyllenhaal, of a 2008 novel by Elena Ferrante

I haven’t read Ferrante’s novel but I can imagine all this being skilfully rendered in prose and not quite working on screen. Yet it does work, projecting a vivid sense of unease.

Above all, Colman’s performance is astonishingly good. She won an Oscar for her Queen Anne in The Favourite (2018), another psychologically fragile woman, but that part was a gift for an actress as good as her. 

The unhappy Leda is a much more subtle and demanding role, and it’s hard to think of anyone who could do it quite as well, although Buckley is scarcely less brilliant, especially in the scenes with the daughters.

Above all, Colman’s performance is astonishingly good. She won an Oscar for her Queen Anne in The Favourite (2018), another psychologically fragile woman, but that part was a gift for an actress as good as her

Above all, Colman’s performance is astonishingly good. She won an Oscar for her Queen Anne in The Favourite (2018), another psychologically fragile woman, but that part was a gift for an actress as good as her

Above all, Colman’s performance is astonishingly good. She won an Oscar for her Queen Anne in The Favourite (2018), another psychologically fragile woman, but that part was a gift for an actress as good as her

Colman plays Leda, a middle-aged academic originally from Leeds though now, it is implied, a Harvard professor. She is on holiday on her own on a Greek island, where her tranquil beach idyll is shattered by the arrival of a boorishly boisterous family of Greek-Americans, visiting their Greek cousins

Colman plays Leda, a middle-aged academic originally from Leeds though now, it is implied, a Harvard professor. She is on holiday on her own on a Greek island, where her tranquil beach idyll is shattered by the arrival of a boorishly boisterous family of Greek-Americans, visiting their Greek cousins

Colman plays Leda, a middle-aged academic originally from Leeds though now, it is implied, a Harvard professor. She is on holiday on her own on a Greek island, where her tranquil beach idyll is shattered by the arrival of a boorishly boisterous family of Greek-Americans, visiting their Greek cousins

It’s a piercingly accurate and moving depiction of the yin and yang of young motherhood, both the pleasures and the tribulations.

In the film’s lesser roles, too, the casting is spot on. Johnson is perfect, as are Ed Harris as the American caretaker of Leda’s apartment, and Peter Sarsgaard (the director’s husband) as the pompous, much-older academic who seduces Buckley’s Leda.

I first saw The Lost Daughter at this year’s Venice Film Festival, where sometimes initial impressions can be influenced by a reverential audience. But when I saw it again in more intimate circumstances this week, I admired it even more.

It would have been easy to get carried away, too, at the IMAX screening I attended on Tuesday evening of Spider-Man: No Way Home

The crowd hooted and hollered its approval, not just at the end of the film but sporadically during it, at those moments when director Jon Watts sprang a surprise or dropped one of those in-jokes that fans of superhero movies adore.

The story is even more cosmically daft than usual. 

At the conclusion of 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home, inoffensive high school kid Peter Parker (Tom Holland) was outed as the spandexed one’s alter ego by his vanquished foe Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal). 

It would have been easy to get carried away, too, at the IMAX screening I attended on Tuesday evening of Spider-Man: No Way Home

It would have been easy to get carried away, too, at the IMAX screening I attended on Tuesday evening of Spider-Man: No Way Home

It would have been easy to get carried away, too, at the IMAX screening I attended on Tuesday evening of Spider-Man: No Way Home

This film shows the consequences as Peter, blamed for Mysterio’s death, is hounded by the media and forced to go into hiding with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei).

In the meantime, he, his girlfriend MJ (Zendaya) and best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) have applied to the same college, but are all considered so toxic that they are rejected. 

Aghast, and feeling responsible, Peter asks Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to cast a spell, making the world forget he is Spider-Man. 

Alas, the spell backfires, luring villains from all over the multiverse who have tangled before with the web-slinging crimebuster.

Aghast, and feeling responsible, Peter asks Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to cast a spell, making the world forget he is Spider-Man

Aghast, and feeling responsible, Peter asks Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to cast a spell, making the world forget he is Spider-Man

Aghast, and feeling responsible, Peter asks Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to cast a spell, making the world forget he is Spider-Man

There are a couple of genuine shocks in store for Spider-Man enthusiasts, and a pleasing balance of genuine wit and dramatic oomph

There are a couple of genuine shocks in store for Spider-Man enthusiasts, and a pleasing balance of genuine wit and dramatic oomph

There are a couple of genuine shocks in store for Spider-Man enthusiasts, and a pleasing balance of genuine wit and dramatic oomph

That at least means a juicy part for Willem Dafoe as the Green Goblin, always one of the best Marvel baddies, as Watts and his writers shamelessly, but at times uproariously and poignantly, find a way to splice No Way Home with the Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield Spider-Man films.

There are a couple of genuine shocks in store for Spider-Man enthusiasts, and a pleasing balance of genuine wit and dramatic oomph. 

But overall it’s a greatest hits album of a film, certain to delight fans but maybe not the true comic-book purists. 

A longer version of the Spider-Man: No Way Home review ran in Wednesday’s paper. Both films are in cinemas now. The Lost Daughter is also on Netflix from December 31.

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