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One great blessing of the current trend toward diversity and inclusion is that Netflix green-lit this scathingly honest psychological exploration of the ambivalence of motherhood, trusting actress Maggie Gyllenhaal to make her auspicious directing debut unraveling its psychological complexity.

The foreboding story follows a middle-aged, British, divorced, literature professor, Leda (Olivia Colman), as she embarks on a solitary summer holiday. Arriving on the Greek island of Spetses, she’s immediately welcomed by the flirtatious handyman (Ed Harris) who handles her rental flat.

After a genial bartender (Paul Mescal) has settled her into a comfortable lounge chair under an umbrella, Leda steadfastly balks after being rudely asked to move ‘down the beach’ to accommodate a brash, boisterous American family, headed by pregnant Callie (Dagmara Dominczyk).

Instead, introverted Leda begins watching an attractive young mother, Nina (Dakota Johnson), part of that rowdy clan, who is obviously torn between the pleasures of youth and the responsibility of parenthood as she copes with her needy, cantankerous toddler daughter.

That brings back unnerving memories of how Leda herself struggled while raising two daughters – Bianca and Martha – both now grown and living far away.

“I’m an unnatural mother,” Leda (Jessie Buckley as her younger self) says, feeling overwhelmed and guilty while admitting to utter exasperation with her attention-demanding girls.

Back then, Leda was working as an ambitious translator of Italian poetry, so eager for intellectual/artistic recognition in her field of study that she recklessly makes a life-altering choice involving a sexy professor (Peter Sarsgaard) at an academic conference.

Then, suddenly, there’s panic on the beach as Nina’s little girl goes missing, along with her beloved doll.

Based on Italian author Elena Ferrante’s challenging 2006 novella, it’s adapted and directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal, working on supplying contradictory cinematic feminine subtext in conjunction with French director of photography Helene Louvart and astute editor Affonso Gonvalves with music by Dickon Hinchliffe.

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, The Lost Daughter is a subversive yet compassionate 7 – in select theaters and streaming on Netflix on December 31.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.