Dakota Johnson says mom Melanie Griffith is still processing The Lost Daughter
Maggie Gyllenhaal's directorial debut, The Lost Daughter, is an elegy on maternal ambivalence. Based on Elena Ferrante's novel of the same name, the psychological drama tells the intertwining stories of Leda (Olivia Colman), a college professor and divorcee who becomes fixated on a woman, Nina (Dakota Johnson), and her young daughter while on vacation at a quiet seaside town in Greece. A mother herself, Leda's fixation resurrects dark memories from her past.
For Johnson, who plays the complicated Nina to Colman's unmoored Leda, giving voice to that unspoken ambivalence was "so relieving."
"I haven't experienced that honesty on-screen [before]," Johnson says in the latest episode of EW's The Awardist podcast. "Sometimes, when you see a mother having a difficult moment, and they're like, 'Ugh, I hate myself'... it's far deeper than that. It's far more complicated. I think there's no way to feel great about everything all the time, and there's no way to be perfect at everything all the time. Maybe being perfect is being flawed, as a mother."
Johnson tells EW's Clarissa Cruz that she's moved by the unwavering honesty in Gyllenhaal's masterful debut, which, in addition to its various other accolades (including four wins at the 2021 Gotham Awards), picked up noms for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress (Jessie Buckley, as a young Leda) at the 2022 BAFTA Awards this week.
"I'm not a mother, but I do have one, and I have a stepmother, and my family is quite complicated," Johnson says. "So there are a lot of maternal women around, and every single one is so different, and the way they connect to their children is so different. It's just so impossible to articulate. And it's a lie that you have to enjoy [motherhood] at all times. I think Maggie just tells the truth about it in this film."
As for whether Johnson's own mother — the famed actress and film producer Melanie Griffith — has seen the film, she has. But Johnson says Griffith is still processing the subject matter, adding, "My mom watched it three times, and I don't really know. I think for some people it takes time to marinate. I think when she's ready to talk to me about it, she will."
Johnson also talked about director Maggie Gyllenhaal and her assured feature debut. "I feel like she's always been a director, and I think that in her heart, she feels like she's always been a director, but maybe just never allowed herself to believe in it or feel that or think it," she says. "There was not a moment that she didn't have a fully realized response or opinion about what this movie was... She's just super smart and honest and really always looking for the truth and searching for the truth, and that is so brave and liberating and bold."
The Lost Daughter is available to stream on Netflix.
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