The Lost Girl (15) 4stars
For her first feature as writer/director, Maggie Gyllenhaal makes a disturbing work of Elena Ferranti’s 2008 novel The lost girl, about the complexities of motherhood and the pressure on women to give in to its demands.
Olivia Colman plays Leda, a British academic whose vacation on the Greek island of Spetses stirs up uncomfortable memories when she finds herself embroiled in the life of a left and beset Italian-American family vacationing at the same resort town. Although she enjoys her own company, she recognizes something of herself in Nina (Dakota Johnson), the beautiful but stressed mother of a little girl who looks more like a prisoner than a parent. When the little girl goes missing one day, it is Leda who helps her find her and although there is much gratitude from the family, Leda impulsively steals the child’s favorite doll and hides it in her apartment, a simple act of cruelty that binds her to Nina’s family in an emotionally unsettling way.
Gyllenhaal uses it to heighten psychological tension as the fear of discovery begins to have an uncanny effect on Leda, whose self-imposed exile appears to be an ongoing experiment in allowing herself freedom and permission to reconnect. the impulsive person she was. before having children. Flashbacks to her earlier family life give us an elliptical glimpse of how Leda ended up where she is (Jesse Buckley plays her as a young woman). But Gyllenhaal is careful not to use them as a cohesive explanation of the character, preferring to let Colman’s inscrutability hint at the complicated feelings parenthood can evoke in people for whom it might not come naturally.
Gyllenhaal takes a nonjudgmental approach to this rarely explored subject, but frequently frames Colman in creepy close-ups that make it hard to watch but impossible to look away.
Moonlight stars Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris reunite for swan song, a nuanced sci-fi drama about a dying man (Ali) who secretly clones himself to spare his wife (Harris) and child the grief and uncertainty his death will bring.
Delivering on the promise of his Oscar-winning shorts, debut writer/director Benjamin Cleary turns this provocative Black Mirror-esque premise into a gripping drama about the ethics of cloning that refuses to simply regurgitate the best bits of Blade Runner. Instead, it grounds its characters in a reality that’s more recognizable, but one in which technology is literally able to take over their lives.
That’s what happens when Ali’s character, Cameron, reluctantly agrees to be a guinea pig for a tech start-up run by Glenn Close’s Dr. Scott. She is in the early stages of field testing cloning technology that can replace terminally ill patients without their families knowing, and with Cameron’s worsening seizures hastening his impending demise, he agrees to clone and transfer his memories to Cameron 2.0 before it’s too late.
Here the film gives us the obvious bonus of seeing the Oscar-winning double act against himself and it’s a measure of Ali’s quality that he can create two subtly distinct characters from one starting point without confusing the plot. It also helps Cleary resist the urge to go the thriller route; instead, her script takes into account the emotional impact this process takes on both versions of Cameron while also allowing enough space for Harris’ character, Poppy, to silently question her husband’s morality. who dictates her future and that of her son without giving them a say. .
The Lost Daughter is on select release from December 17 and streaming on Netflix from December 31. Swan Song is on select release and streaming on AppleTV+ from December 17
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