Maggie Gyllenhaal was glowing as her assured directorial debut, “The Lost Daughter,” received a warm, four-minute standing ovation in the Venice Film Festival’s Sala Grande after Greek music played as the credits rolled, with her brother Jake Gyllenhaal cheering in the row behind her.
Gyllenhaal’s adaptation of the eponymous Elena Ferrante novel about a middle-aged comparative literature professor on a solo vacation that brings back echoes of her parenting past, clearly struck a chord with the largely Italian audience, despite the Italy-set tale being transposed to the Greek island of Spetses and played by Anglo-Saxon characters.
Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley –– who did not attend the premiere –– play Leda, the lead, at different ages. While Leda is vacationing in Greece, she intersects with Nina, played by Dakota Johnson, and her young daughter on the beach and does something surprising with the daughter’s doll that conjures memories of her turbulent time as a mother of two girls.
Johnson, in a plunging silver gown, walked down the Palazzo del Cinema’s walled-in red carpet with director Luca Guadagnino. Colman wore a silver and black velvet suit, while Maggie donned a long, dark gown and held hands with Jake (suave in a white suit), as they walked the red carpet together. Gyllenhaal’s husband, Peter Sarsgaard, who stars in the film, held her hand as the opening credits rolled.
During a press conference earlier in the day, Gyllenhaal pointed out that when she first read Ferrante’s books, she connected with the main characters, but also she thought, “Oh my god, this woman is so fucked up. Then a millisecond later I thought, ‘Oh no, I really relate to her, does that make me fucked up?,’” she said.
“Then I realized that many people have this experience and nobody talks about it. These are secret truths about a feminine experience,” she added.
About directing for the first time, Gyllenhaal said: “I think I’ve always been a director and I just didn’t feel entitled to admit it to myself. … I think it’s a better job for me actually.”
Interestingly, it was playing porn director Candy on HBO show “The Deuce” when Gyllenhaal realized: “This is me, actually. This is a better job,” she said.
And asked whether she would like to direct her brother Jake, she said: “Yes, it would be great. I’d love to.”