Starring: Olivia Coleman, Dakota Johnson, Jessie Buckley, Ed Harris, Peter Sarsgaard
Directed By: Maggie Gyllenhaal
Where I Viewed: Netflix
English Audio Description: Yes
The Plot: A late 40’s woman (Coleman) is the predominant focus of this story, that jumps through timelines, and explores intimately many details of a persons life, and how they came to be. It tackles everything from motherhood and all that comes with it, and an unhealthy obsession.
What Works: Olivia Coleman’s performance. Even though Jessie Buckley does a fine job in the flashbacks, this really a film that lives and dies with Coleman. I can appreciate Maggie Gyllenhaal’s desire to tackle a difficult first film, but if this film gets any Oscar nominations it will be for Coleman. Kudos to Gyllenhaal for choosing to direct a beach movie for her first film. It’s always nice to get that vacation in while also working. Ha. And, also, while his presence in the film offers nothing, I know it couldn’t have been easy directing her husband in intimate scenes.
But, ultimately, if you are showing up for The Lost Daughter, it is one of three reasons. you either read the original source material and are curious about the adaptation, you are checking off your Oscar bucket list, or you’ve heard that Olivia Coleman makes a film work that really shouldn’t work.
What Doesn’t Work: Basically, the film centers around an incredibly complex, yet ultimately unlikable protagonist. Coleman does her best keeping us engaged in someone we normally wouldn’t take note of. The thing is, without spoiling, it’s not like her character is going to win villain of the year, she’s just not a person you would choose to get to know, and the film never really paints her in a positive light. The problem is that the film is asking us to spend two hours getting invested in a person we don’t like, simply because that’s what the film is about, and between Coleman and Buckley, it’s basically 90% of the screen time and dialogue.
The rest of the cast, offer what they can, but the film is so heavily centered on one person, it makes it really hard to say anything complimentary about them.
I spent the majority of the film, much like you will if you didn’t read the source material, looking for a grand twist. I mean, there are twists, but I kept feeling like the film was moving in a direction it never went. It never got more interesting than just watching Olivia Coleman. She’s great, but this movie just isn’t.
The Blind Perspective: the audio description on this, for what its worth, is about as good as it can be. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s decision to meditate for long durations leaves the film with giant gaps for really descriptive audio, although the film is challenged with constant flashbacks, and trying to keep us appraised of what timeline we are in. Officially, there are three timelines, and while we really only spend time in two, it does make it a little harder to follow. Blind people aren’t just given the easy route of being able to see when Olivia Coleman is on screen and when Jessie Buckley is on screen. So, all things considered, I thought the audio description here was as exceptional as it could be given the subject material.
Final Thoughts: While this has gotten a lot of attention, it really mostly is for Olivia Coleman, who dominates a film that is entirely about her character. She is terribly unlikable, and I’d be lying if I said a shorter, tighter film might have served us all better. When we are asked to cater about someone like her for such an incredible length, there needs to be a real payoff for doing so. That didn’t happen here. Pretty much, what you feel like will happen, does happen. I know Gyllenhaal was tied to some previous work, but if the original novel was this monotonous, why bother adapting it?
Final Grade: C