Leda’s complicated path as a mother is told in Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut, The Lost Daughter, which follows her. The Terrible Mother archetype follows the Great Mother, and the movie strives to explain the intricate complexity of motherhood. Professor Leda swings back and forth between these two positions. Despite the fact that mothers are meant to be altruistic, being a mother causes a mother to lose some of her sense of self. Leda encounters a mother-daughter pair while on business in Greece; they make her remember her own motherhood.
The movie follows Leda on a journey and frequently presents the world to us through her perspective. Leda tried to focus on her academic work, but Nina and Elena, her daughter, soon diverted her attention. Leda was brought back to her childhood days with her children Bianca and Martha by the warm bond between Nina and Elena.
Leda’s point of view images give the impression that a voyeur is observing her hidden source of pleasure from a distance. The memories that were reawakened were likely lovely and intimate due to the distance. She observed the beachgoers as a movie played out, exactly as Leda had described. She was hardly seen by anyone around her, becoming virtually invisible in the commotion, much like one is at a movie theatre. Once she was spoken to, this realm was broken, taking her on a voyage that would later prove to be uncomfortable. The audience is given a detailed account of her girls’ early years, yet we learn little nothing about their current health beyond their age. Although the calls and the worry revealed by her daughter over the phone verified the sentiment of love and respect, it is assumed that the mother and her daughters may still be separated.
Leda’s trip down memory lane was prompted by not only the friendship between Nina and Elena but also the bond she had with her husband. Leda was reminded of her first husband and their waning romance by the young love that comes with sexual tension.
The joyful recollections were gradually supplanted by ones that bothered her as the plot of The Lost Daughter developed. Leda struggled to balance her academic interests with her daughters’ needs as a young mother and student. Leda was beginning to lose herself, and this caused tension in the mother-child relationship. The crying children kept Leda from her work, and she soon became an irate mother burdened with duties. The painful remembrances came back with Elena’s disappearance. Just as she did when she lost Bianca at a beach, Leda was able to locate Elena. Nina liked Leda when she assisted in locating Elina, but the happiness was quickly replaced with struggle when Elina started acting out because she had misplaced her doll.
Elina was seen playing with her doll and biting its cheek in the scene just before she vanished. We found out who had taken the doll during the parents’ search: Leda. The doll is a representation of Leda’s upbringing and her fervent desire to shield it from the outside world. Leda recalled giving her favourite doll to Bianca as a gift, but her daughter may have destroyed it to claim ownership and get her mother’s attention. In the past, Leda had thrown the doll in rage, but this time she made the choice to save it. She kept it secure and concealed behind a cabinet. Leda made the decision to keep it despite being aware of how the daughter’s loss of her favourite toy upset the mother.
While preserving her lost childhood can be interpreted as a desire to maintain the toy, it can also be seen as a means of chastisement towards the kid (Elina/Bianca) for destroying something she held in such high regard. In The Lost Daughter, it has been established numerous times that she has a terrible relationship with Bianca in particular. The elder siblings are probably the ones that hunger for attention when their mother’s attention is divided, which causes tension, wrath, and hatred.
Leda is a complicated character; while her consciousness directs her to carry out specific roles and responsibilities, her true motivations may be self-centered, as they typically are for humans.
Leda progressively made the decision to put her interest and development first as she was recognised by her teachers for her scholastic success. The children and her became much more estranged as a result of her extramarital relationship. Leda left her husband to care for their two girls while he urged her to stay. Her little children could not grasp the complexity of the situation when she went for three years. Leda felt horrible about this and was ashamed of herself for it. She thought the separation was fantastic, which only served to increase her self-hatred. She was consumed by guilt, just like the pine cone that fell from the tree left a mark on her body.
The doll Leda was guarding had a worm crawl out of its mouth. Leda made the decision to give Nina the doll back before she went as the rot disappeared. Leda, meantime, learned of Nina’s extramarital affair with Will. He said they planned to spend the night together in Leda’s rented apartment, and they hoped she would lend them her keys to make it easier. Nina could identify to Nina’s desire to avoid her obligations even more. She gave Nina the toy back and confessed to stealing it from Elena. Leda continued to apologise while a bewildered Nina screamed insults at her. Leda referred to herself as an unnatural mother and cautioned Nina that none of this would ever make up for the ongoing suffering and difficulties a mother experiences.
With a sharp hat pin, Nina physically wounded Leda before leaving the room. Leda departed the Greek village after suffering from both physical and mental injuries. She was passing the beach when her automobile unexpectedly broke down, causing her to stumble into the sand and pass out close to the water’s edge. The sound of the waves smashing roused Leda up from her nap at the shore. Her navel injury brought to memory a discussion she had with her girls on the definition of “naval.”
As Nina noticed blood streaming from her wound, she ultimately made the decision to call her daughter. When their mother called, Bianca and Martha were overjoyed. They were unrestricted in their love and affection. The navel is linked to the beauty of this scene, where the mother’s love and affection for her daughters are finally acknowledged and healed. The relationship that a child has with their mother even before birth is represented by the navel. The navel serves as a permanent reminder of where the umbilical cord attached to the mother to nourish the infant.
Another intriguing way to employ metaphors and links is to peel something like a snake and not let it break. Bianca saw that the mother was careful not to let the orange skin split as she peeled it, giving it a snake-like aspect. When she finally tears the orange skin off while talking to her daughters, it almost feels like a fresh birth of some way.
The Lost Daughter, Olivia Colman’s spellbinding performance, is packed with symbolism and meanings. The continual use of extremely close-up shots in the cinematography conveys a feeling of intimacy and proximity. The Lost Daughter is worth a second viewing because it’s fascinating to watch and profound in its themes.
Also Read: A Tale of Motherhood Told By Mothers in The Lost Daughter Review Analysis!
Maggie Gyllenhaal is the director of the 2021 drama movie The Lost Daughter. It is an adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s book. Netflix offers the movie for streaming.