Seems like I’ve been searching for the beautifully flawed, captivating, and totally human Leda Caruso all my life. The most significant moment of The lost girl (streaming on Netflix) is when the younger self of Leda (Jessie Buckley) turns her face to the door and walks out. Leaving behind two adorable clingy young girls. She did everything she was asked, including peeling an apple as best she could, in a long, unbroken swirl, like a snake, their own game. And then she was done.
She threw a switch. In the future, she might change one’s mind. The lover who fell in love with her can lose her charm. But right now, she’s gone, she’s gone, emerging on the other side as herself (Olivia Colman).
Between the face of the woman resolved to peel that fruit and that of the woman who has turned away from a life with her daughters and their father, wrapped up in the tiresome and endless demands of domestic life, there is a resolve painful and overwhelming. To rediscover herself, which comes to life when she reads, writes and thinks. Leda’s face is a map of desire, instantly recognizable and Reliable.
She no longer wants to be just the mother that is expected of her all the time. Provide relief. Meal. Medications. Cuddles. And the most precious, her time, during which she wants to do something other than mothering. It’s not just her two daughters she’s supposed to take care of. Her joint is as much of a clinger. He begs her not to go. It doesn’t say, I’m sorry, I’ll do more, I’ll be more. All she gets is more whining. At this point, there doesn’t seem to be a difference between her daughters and this kneeling man she fathered these daughters with.
We rarely see these mothers leave in our world. We don’t see too many of them on screen either. Leda (Colman and Buckley) and Nina (Dakota Johnson) in Maggie Gyllenhaal’s brilliant debut are singular portrayals of what motherhood can and does mean for millions of silent women around the world.
The ideal mother, the apple pie baker and gaajar-halwa maker, is meant to dissolve and proudly become her duties. She is put on a pedestal and revered. If she walks away, even for a moment, she is guilty. Not just by her immediate family but by the expectations of society. This guilt becomes a constant. What if something happened to the children? Why is she out of the house? Why does she even think of herself, when she is a mother?
By articulating these embryonic desires and the constant oscillation between a woman’s many selves, The Lost Daughter, based on a short story by best-selling Italian author Elena Ferrante, is a game changer.
Leda returns. She doesn’t say why. But one thing I do know, and it is this. Only when you leave can you come back. Only by losing yourself can you find yourself.