Tag Archives: Maggie Gyllenhaal

The Lost Daughter (2021) Review

The Lost Daughter_HERO

The Lost Daughter

Time: 121 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Sex scenes, offensive language & content that may disturb
Cast:
Olivia Colman as Leda Caruso
Jessie Buckley as Young Leda Caruso
Dakota Johnson as Nina
Peter Sarsgaard as Professor Hardy
Ed Harris as Lyle
Director: Maggie Gyllenhaal

A college professor (Olivia Colman) confronts her unsettling past after meeting a woman (Dakota Johnson) and her young daughter while on vacation in Italy. Her obsession with the woman and her daughter prompts memories of her early motherhood.

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The Lost Daughter is the third of the three movie tickets I secured as part of the NZIFF, and it’s one of my most anticipated movies of 2021. This would be Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut and would consist of a great cast including Olivia Colman, Dakota Johnson, Jessie Buckley, and Ed Harris. I went in only really knowing the main premise, seeing a trailer, and hearing that some people had split reactions to it. I’m glad to say that I’m one of the people who really liked The Lost Daughter.

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The Lost Daughter is a bit of an unconventional movie, at least with its narrative. Essentially it follows Olivia Colman on a holiday in Greece, she meets a woman with a difficult child (played by Dakota Johnson) and that brings up her own motherhood with her two young girls portrayed in flashbacks (with the younger Colman played by Jessie Buckley). The film then jumps between past and present, revealing the regrets and reflections that Colman has. The plot definitely unravels in an unusual way but very much moves to its own rhythm and pace. It could’ve been a mess of a structure, but Maggie Gyllenhaal pulls it off, I was invested enough in the story and character to want to see and learn more. The Lost Daughter is essentially an unflinching character study following a woman thinking back on her life, and it’s also a look at motherhood which touches on the struggles of parenthood and the toll it takes on the parent. Additionally, it delves into themes like femininity and motherhood, and the feelings and regrets that come from being a mother. It’s not an easy movie to watch, I know that many viewers will struggle to stay following this protagonist with some of the things she does, and it’s a hard topic to cover (and one that a lot of people don’t like to think about). However Gyllenhaal pulls it off by remaining empathetic, not judging its characters, and handles its challenging views on motherhood with a lot of nuance. Its very honest, meditative and human as certain truths are revealed about different characters. In terms of issues with the film, the constant flashbacks can take away from the depth of character work in the present sections, and they are jarring in the first act. Also at the end, some things weren’t as tied up as greatly as I would’ve like, there was particularly one conclusion towards the end which felt a little bit of a let down.

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The acting is phenomenal and one of the best parts of the film. First of all is the lead character Leda, who is a complex character that is full of contradictions. She is selfish and unlikable at times, a very difficult character to play. However both actresses do a superb job at portraying her. The present day Leda is played by Olivia Colman, she is a quiet presence. D plays her with a lot of nuance and in a way that makes you understand her. One of her best performances, and that’s saying a lot considering a lot of her recent work. Jessie Buckley plays the younger Leda, and she was a perfect casting choice as a younger Colman. She’s more showy than Colman’s comparatively subtle performance, but she effectively portrayed her desire for an escape out of her motherly life and really plays up her humanity. Another fantastic performance from Buckley. Both Colman and Buckley are believable as the same person, while avoiding feeling like they’re trying to imitate each other. The two performances are full of empathy and fleshed out versions of the same character. Dakota Johnson is used sparingly in this film but this is very likely one of the best performances I’ve seen from her. She’s able to tell a lot without saying much, even just with her facial expressions, body language and subtle glances. Ed Harris, Peter Sarsgaard, Paul Mescal and Oliver Jackson-Cohen are comparatively short on screentime but all do well to make their presences felt and are good in their parts.

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As I said earlier, this is Maggie Gyllenhaal’s first film as a director and she’s done a great job here. It does feel like a debut movie with some aspects with the camerawork and editing, but it’s a strong debut nonetheless. The eerie atmosphere helped the movie to dive deeper into Leda’s headspace throughout. The cinematography is also great, with making use of the locations in Greece in the present day, but are particularly effective with the close ups of the characters.

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The Lost Daughter is not an easy movie to watch and isn’t for everyone. However I thought it was great. A slowly paced yet engaging and compelling character drama, we’ll directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal, and with phenomenal performances, especially from Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley and Dakota Johnson. The movie will be on Netflix in December, and I think it’s worth checking out at the very least.

The Kindergarten Teacher (2018) Review

Time: 96 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Maggie Gyllenhaal as Lisa Spinelli
Parker Sevak as Jimmy Roy
Michael Chernus as Grant Spinelli
Gael García Bernal as Simon
Anna Baryshnikov as Meghan
Ajay Naidu as Nikhil Roy
Rosa Salazar as Becca
Director: Sara Colangelo

A teacher (Maggie Gyllenhaal) sees such great promise in her 5-year-old student (Parker Sevak) that she goes to unreasonable lengths to protect his talent.

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I heard some good things about The Kindergarten Teacher a while ago. I pretty much only watched this because I heard that Maggie Gyllenhaal gave a really great performance in it, I didn’t know anything else about the movie aside from the premise and that it would be distributed by Netflix. The Kindergarten Teacher overall is a solid movie, with a fantastic lead performance by Gyllenhaal, even if it’s not the easiest movie to watch.

The Kindergarten Teacher is a pretty straightforward character study and it doesn’t try to be anything more than that. It’s only 90 minutes and they don’t overcomplicate things, and they keep the plot moving at a reasonably good pace, even if this movie is very at its core an intimate drama. It is probably worth noting that this movie is a bit of an uncomfortable watch, despite the plot not sounding like it would be. It’s not extremely disturbing and there’s nothing really too graphic or anything like that of the sort, though it is unnerving during portions of the movie. It’s uncomfortable in the sense that over the course of the movie, Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character gradually oversteps her boundaries when it comes to the child, and you just want her to stop what she’s doing. Now thankfully they don’t go for the worst case scenario like many of us would think it would (it honestly would feel kind of cheap if they did) but its nonetheless not easy to watch. With that said, while you might have those feelings, it’s still rather riveting and you want to see what will happen at the end of the movie.

The main reason to watch The Kindergarten Teacher is for Maggie Gyllenhaal’s incredible performance as the titular Kindergarten Teacher. While I admit I haven’t seen a ton of her performances, this probably ranks among her best and is definitely the best I’ve seen from her so far. I like that despite how it’s clear that what she is doing is morally wrong, it does take a sympathetic angle on her that shows how some of it is well intentioned and you can see why she would have this obsession that would make her do the things she wants to do. At the same time though, the movie is fully aware that what she’s doing isn’t good. It’s a complex and layered performance that was delivered excellently by Gyllenhaal. The supporting cast is pretty good as well, with Michael Chernus, Gael Garcia Bernal and others serving their parts as well. The actor who plays the main child who Gyllenhaal’s character is particularly focussed on, Jimmy Sevak, was also quite good in his role, quite convincing and effective as a potential protégé who’s still quite innocent in this stage of his life.

The direction by Sara Colangelo (who also wrote the movie) is pretty good. The overall direction is all done at an adequate level to serve this story, it’s nothing flashy or miraculous, but it worked quite well.

The Kindergarten Teacher is not necessarily an easy watch, even though it was all around a solid movie with regards to the acting, writing and direction. However I’d still say that it might be worth watching for Maggie Gyllenhaal, who is really great here and deserving of way more praise than she’s been getting for her performance.

The Dark Knight (2008)

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The Dark Knight

Time: 152 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne
Heath Ledger as The Joker
Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent
Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth
Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel
Gary Oldman as Gordon
Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox
Director: Christopher Nolan

Set within a year after the events of Batman Begins, Batman (Christian Bale), Lieutenant James Gordon (Gary Oldman), and new district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) successfully begin to round up the criminals that plague Gotham City until a mysterious and sadistic criminal mastermind known only as the Joker (Heath Ledger) appears in Gotham, creating a new wave of chaos. Batman’s struggle against the Joker forces him to confront everything he believes, improve his technology to stop him and forces Batman closer to crossing the fine line between hero and vigilante.

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The Dark Knight is one of the best sequels to an already great movie. This is up with The Godfather Part 2, Aliens, Terminator 2 and The Empire Strikes back for a sequel being as good if not better as the original. The film is much darker than Batman Begins, mostly because of The Joker but also because Batman is tested much harder by his new adversity. The dialogue between characters is very interesting and captivating, an example of this is one scene that is between Batman and The Joker. Most of the best things about this movie can only be seen, it can’t be explained. The first scene in The Dark Knight is one of the most surprising openings to a movie because of the soundtrack and the setup which I won’t spoil for those few people who haven’t seen this film yet. Once experiencing that first scene the first time I watched it, I knew that I was in for something special.

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As in Batman Begins, Christian Bale is great as Batman. He again manages to portray both Bruce Wayne’s side and Batman’s side. I honestly don’t need to say much about Heath Ledger’s surprising performance as The Joker as it’s been talked about so often. But no one expected him to act like this. People already knew he was a good actor but the fact that he was going to be The Joker was looking to be one of the worst miscasts for an actor for a role. However he impressed everyone by going beyond the comic book. People compare his performance to Jack Nicholson’s in Batman (1989). For me Jack Nicholson’s performance was the first supervillian that translated from the comic book to the big screen. Heath Ledger is the perfect portrayal of a sociopath who happens to be The Joker. For me, both performances were perfect but I slightly like Ledger’s performance slightly more, only because his character seems more realistic as an absolute psychopath than Nicholson’s. As usual, the cast from the previous movie, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman returns. The only character who has had a new actor was Maggie Gyllenhaal replacing Katie Holmes as Rachel who was also really good here. Aaron Eckhart was perfect as Harvey Dent. I can’t really give examples of his best moments in the film as it may spoil things for the few people who haven’t seen this movie yet. I will say that Dent goes through some changes as a character.

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Like the first film, Hans Zimmer composed the score to The Dark Knight and as usual does a good job. The action was filmed well, like in the first film; every action scene is made to seem plausible as possible. There are some scenes like the truck flip scene that weren’t CGI, Christopher Nolan actually managed to make that happen.

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If you replaced the character of Batman with someone else, it is still a really good crime drama. That’s the best way that I can describe The Dark Knight: a great crime drama with Batman in it. One of the best comic book movies of all time manages to be a great movie on its own, not just as an action movie. The excellent acting by everyone, the immersion of the world and the interesting story makes it an essential movie for everyone to watch.