The Oscars are coming (on March 27, to be precise) which means we must prepare ourselves for a glut of stories about Olivia Colman. There seems to be some sort of immutable law which says one cannot have an awards ceremony without the involvement of Ms Colman. Then again, she is a bloody good on screen. In 2019 she won best actress for playing the lead part in The Favourite and she is among the front-runners again.
In this instance the film is The Lost Daughter (see poster on the home page). Colman is up for the Oscar for best actress for her role as 48-year-old Leda Caruso, a college professor; Jessie Buckley is nominated as best supporting actress for playing Leda in her younger years; and the film’s director, Maggie Gyllenhaal, is nominated for best adapted screenplay, the movie being based on the eponymous novel by Elena Ferrante.
Getting lost is a theme of the film. Leda meets Nina (Dakota Johnson) during a search on the beach for the latter’s three-year-old daughter, Elena, who has gone missing. The little girl is soon found but her favourite doll remains lost. (In fact, kidnapped, by Leda, as we later realise.) We also later realise that Nina is having an affair with Will, played by Paul Mescal (Connell in Normal People), who is employed at the resort, but before then we revisit Leda’s earlier life, shown in sequenced flashbacks to when her daughters – Bianca and Martha, now 25 and 23 – were small children.
This part of the film depicts how Leda found it difficult to cope with her daughters’ tantrums and general behaviour as they were growing up, leading Leda to have an affair and spend three years away from her children and her now former husband. The older Leda explains this story to Nina, all the while keeping possession of Elena’s doll. One night, Leda has dinner with Kyle, the hotel’s caretaker, with the doll lying in full view on her balcony table. Kyle doesn’t mention this to Leda and nor to Nina, even though signs flagging the doll’s disappearance have been posted (by Leda!) on tree trunks at the resort. One presumes we are suppose to figure that Leda wants her misappropriation of the doll to be discovered. Which duly happens when Leda tells Nina about it, saying she had been “just playing”. Nina shows her thanks by stabling her in the stomach with a hat pin.
She doesn’t die from this but she does embark on a rather perilous car journey and later collapses on a beach. She wakes up in the morning, somewhat soggy but safe, and then makes a phone call to her daughters. And that’s pretty much that. Colman and Buckley are both deserving of their nominations, in my humble and non-expert opinion, but a film that features a lost daughter, a lost girl, a lost marriage and a lost doll does at times have one wondering if a suitable title might instead have been The Lost Plot.