The return of fall festivals means it’s harder than ever to keep up with the deluge of buzzy new titles, from Venice to Telluride and the upcoming Toronto and New York film festivals. Among the many toasts of two of these (specifically Venice and NYFF) is Maggie Gyllenhaal’s feature directorial debut, “The Lost Daughter.” It’s based on a novel by elusive Italian author Elena Ferrante about a woman thrown down a rabbit hole of memory after encountering another young woman while on summer holiday.
While Gyllenhaal contributed a short film to the quarantine omnibus “Homemade,” this marks her first time in the director’s chair. Previously, though, she portrayed someone working behind the camera as her character Candy Merrell in HBO’s beloved cult series “The Deuce.” Candy is a sex worker turned entrepreneur turned porn film director. And it was playing that role, as Gyllenhaal explained at the Venice Film Festival press conference, that made her realize she’s a filmmaker.
Per Deadline’s report, Gyllenhaal said that while making the film she learned “that I’ve always been a director, but I didn’t feel entitled to admit it to myself. Weirdly, it was playing porn director Candy on ‘The Deuce’ when I said ‘this is me actually, this is a better job.’”
Gyllenhaal also tipped her hat to Mike Nichols as a filmmaker she “holds up.”
As for connecting with the Ferrante novel, Gyllenhaal said, “I thought ‘Oh my god this woman is so fucked up. Then a millisecond later I thought, ‘Oh no, I really relate to her, does that make me fucked up? Then I realized that many people have this experience and nobody talks about it. These are secret truths about a feminine experience.”
The official synopsis for “The Lost Daughter” from Netflix reads: “Alone on a seaside vacation, Leda (Olivia Colman) becomes consumed with a young mother and daughter as she watches them on the beach. Unnerved by their compelling relationship, (and their raucous and menacing extended family), Leda is overwhelmed by her own memories of the terror, confusion and intensity of early motherhood. An impulsive act shocks Leda into the strange and ominous world of her own mind, where she is forced to face the unconventional choices she made as a young mother and their consequences.”
Starring opposite Oscar winner Colman is Jessie Buckley, Dakota Johnson, Ed Harris, Peter Sarsgaard, Dagmara Dominczyk, Paul Mescal, Jack Farthing, Robyn Elwell, Ellie Blake, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Panos Koronis, Alexandros Mylonas, Alba Rohrwacher, Nikos Poursanidis, and Athena Martin.