The Lost Daughter Full Movie Plot Summary & Ending Explained

the lost daughter film

The Lost Daughter : A Psychological Drama

Read on to discover the  Plot Summary and Ending of The Lost Daughter, a haunting psychological drama that explores motherhood, trauma, and self-discovery. “The Lost Daughter” is a wildly popular film that explores complex themes of motherhood, identity, and trauma. In this article, we’ll discuss the plot summary and ending of “The Lost Daughter,” exploring the key themes and motifs that make this psychological drama a must-see. The following article may contain some spoilers. Please read at your own discretion.

  • Director : Maggie Gyllenhaal
  • Writer : Maggie Gyllenhaal (based on the novel by Elena Ferrante)
  • Stars : Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley, Dakota Johnson, Ed Harri.
  • IMDB Rating : 6.7/10




Spoilers Ahead.

The Lost Daughter Movie Plot Summary:

 Today, I`m gonna explain the Plot Summary of an American psychological drama movie, called The Lost Daughter.  This movie has a complicated plot and the viewers can conclude the meaning of this movie for themselves, so make sure to read until the end!

A middle-aged college professor and noted translator, Leda Caruso, is on vacation in  Greece looking for inspiration for her work. When she arrives at a resort, she is warmly welcomed by the resort’s caretaker, Lyle, who helps her with her luggage. However, the resort is located next to a lighthouse which sounds foghorn most of the time, and also the complimentary fruit on the kitchen table is rotting.

The next morning, Leda spends her time on a beach that looks like a private beach to her. Afterward, she is approached by Will, who works at the beach bar,  and she buys an ice pop from him. Shortly after, a huge Greek-American family with many screaming children suddenly comes to the beach and disturbs her peace. Because of that, Leda loses her focus and becomes fixated on a young mother named Nina. While watching her, she seems to be reminiscing about something from her past. Later, she gets involved in a minor confrontation with the  American family when one of the family members, Callie, asks her to move, but Leda refuses to comply with her request, causing most of the family to be angry with her. Fortunately, Callie quickly apologizes to her by giving her a piece of birthday cake. The two eventually share their respective lives, and it is revealed that Leda has two daughters, Bianca and Martha.

The following day, Leda watches in displeasure as Nina fights with her husband, Toni,  who neglects their daughter, Elena. Meanwhile, the girl is playing alone with her doll and for some reason, she looks annoyed while biting her doll. Towards noon, Nina suddenly panics as Elena goes missing on the beach. She keeps shouting her daughter’s name while the others spread out looking for Elena. In a flashback, young Leda called out to Bianca who was also lost on a beach. Back in the present day, Leda finally finds Elena and returns her to Nina, who expresses her growing exhaustion and unhappiness.  

Although the whole family is grateful, the little girl is still upset because she loses her favorite doll, which Leda has secretly taken with a purpose. In another flashback, it is revealed that young Leda was also struggling to be a young mother to her two daughters, who often demanded her attention.

On the other hand, her husband was an ambitious academic, just like her, and he did not offer much help in taking care of their children. Instead, he always went on work trips,  leaving his wife alone with their kids. As a result, Leda often lost her patience and became withdrawn from her family. Apart from that, there are also a few happy memories of the family.  One of them is when they went on vacation and welcomed a couple of hikers who were passing through their home. The male hiker said that he has three children that he left behind to hike around the world with his new girlfriend. 

In the present day, Leda meets Callie and  Nina who are still looking for Elena’s doll. They even put up many flyers around the beach offering a reward for its return. One evening, Lyle visits Leda’s home and the two have dinner together. After dinner, Lyle accidentally sees the doll on her table, but he doesn’t comment on it, nor does he tell Nina.  

Later, Leda discovers Nina is having an affair with Will. Another flashback reveals that young Leda got an opportunity to present her work at a conference, where she had an affair with a fellow professor. It is clear that Leda currently sees herself and her own life reflected in Nina. At a market, Leda buys Nina a hatpin to help hold her sunhat in place. The two share a sweet moment, and Nina learns that Leda knows about her and Will, explaining she did that because Toni is very controlling her life. She also asks Leda about her daughter, and Leda becomes really emotional.  Leda finally confesses that she had abandoned her children for three years after she became too overwhelmed, leaving them with her now ex-husband and her mother until she came back three years later. She admits that being away from her daughters felt “amazing,” and she only went back to them when she genuinely missed them.  

After that, Leda attempts to dry out the waterlogged doll that she stole earlier. That night, she comes across Will who asks her if he and Nina can borrow her home to make love. She lends it, as long as Nina gets the keys from her because she wants to talk to her at the same time. The next day, Leda watches Elena who seeks her mother’s attention by asking her mother to accompany her to play on the beach.  Afterward, Callie’s son suddenly offers to help move Leda’s bag, indicating that the family still wants to kick her off the beach.  

After a nap, Leda is visited by Nina who wants to get the keys. Using the opportunity, she admits to being a selfish and “unnatural” mother and warns  Nina that her depression will never go away. She also gives her Elena’s doll, confessing that  she took it and that she was “just playing” with it. Therefore, Nina reacts angrily and stabs  Leda in the stomach with the gifted hatpin. She then leaves the resort, telling Leda that she better watches her back. That day is also the last day of Leda’s vacation. She packs her belongings and leaves the resort at night, driving her car away from the resort. Unable to endure the pain from her wound, she drives her car off the road. She then stumbles down the beach and finally collapses on the shoreline. 

The following morning, Leda awakens on the beach while remembering her past with her children for the last time. After sitting down on the shoreline, she calls Bianca, who happens to be with her little sister Martha.  Both of her children express their relief to hear from their mother, from whom they had not heard in several days. Bianca also says that she has tried to contact her mother and that she thought that she has died. Leda replies she is fine and then looks down to discover an orange in her hand. The movie ends with Leda listening to her children talk as she peels the orange skin off “like a snake”, the way she used to do for her daughters when they were little.


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