The New York Film Festival premiere of “The Lost Daughter” was a homecoming for Maggie Gyllenhaal, seasoned actor and now first-time director thanks to her new psychological drama.
“My great-grandparents came to New York as immigrants. My grandparents were born in the Bronx. My mother grew up and was born in Brooklyn. My parents met here. My dad was just telling me the other day he and my mom would come to dates here at the New York Film Festival and see films here. And I was born here in New York,” Gyllenhaal said to a packed Alice Tully Hall in Manhattan’s Lincoln Center. “I don’t know how many films I have seen at Lincoln Center and even in this theater, and I’ve never had a film at the festival.”
The Wednesday night premiere of “The Lost Daughter” was only the third time Gyllenhaal has watched her film with an audience, after it premiered at Venice, Telluride and several other film festivals. But this New York crowd was special.
“Because this is my hometown and because this is my home team, this is the first time I will have the experience that I fantasized about creating, which is watching the film with my very best friends, my colleagues, my husband, my brother, my own mother,” Gyllenhaal said.
“The Lost Daughter,” based on the novel of the same name by Elena Ferrante, stars Olivia Colman as a mother of two who becomes obsessed with a fellow mom (played by Dakota Johnson) and has flashbacks to her younger days of struggling to balance her life as a teacher and parent. Gyllenhaal also wrote and produced the adaptation.
“It’s very honest about how being a woman is sometimes messy and sometimes ugly and that’s ok. Being a mother is complicated…and everyone is just trying to do their best. It’s important that we shine a light on how complicated it is to be a woman and it’s really ok and people should be allowed to express themselves to their full potential,” Johnson told Variety on the red carpet.
The cast includes Jessie Buckley, Paul Mescal, Ed Harris, Dagmara Dominczyk and Peter Sarsgaard, Gyllenhaal’s husband. Jake Gyllenhaal also appeared at the premiere to support his sister and her directorial debut.
“Maggie has always been amazing at articulating herself,” Sarsgaard told Variety. “It didn’t surprise me she wrote a great script. But it surprised me how little was spoken in the movie and how much was visual. That visual language that she had, I had no idea that was under belt at all.”
“The Lost Daughter” also marked a historic first for Mescal, who broke out in the Hulu series “Normal People” and earned an Emmy nomination last year. Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut is also Mescal’s feature film debut, and the Irish actor arrived in New York for the first time ever to promote the movie.
“It never felt to me that it was her first film,” Mescal told Variety. “I think the film shows that. It’s incredibly assured, and that’s down to her presence and her personality. She made us feel incredibly confident. She challenged us in her choices because she’s also an actor. It’s a beautiful blend of all that work.”
“The Lost Daughter” releases in theaters on Dec. 17, then begins streaming on Netflix on Dec. 31.