‘The Dark Daughter’ – The Cycle of Life

What is motherhood? A simple question, a complex answer. And in between we find ‘The Dark Daughter’, the promising debut as writer and director of Maggie Gyllenhaal: A film trapped between the simple sensationalism of the seventh art and the complex density of literature. The literary origin of the story is evident, as it is no less evident that Gyllenhaal has made a career as an interpreter: The performances of the entire cast, led by Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley as the two sides of the same coin, are undoubtedly the best of the movie The sting of the movie. For these interpretations alone, the experience is worthwhile. Although the film pulls towards obstinacy and antipathy, with continuous comings and goings determined to gloat in the present and past suffering of the protagonist. And with it from the spectator, not necessarily in a good way when she is not insisted, over and over again, in more than one direction. It is legitimate, and on paper a coherent bet. And at times it works very well. Not so much in a group that ends up being more exhausting than empathic. And it is that ‘The Dark Daughter’, although well-intentioned and with plenty of arguments to deserve respect, is not a “clean” adaptation that flows organically. The seams of cinema are superimposed on the textures of literature, their intentions being wrapped in a halo of artificial and capricious cruelty that they do not finish lifting and projecting the story as something natural and genuine. As if the performers, despite their excellence, were not capable of breaking down that invisible wall that always exists between the work and the viewer. What is motherhood? A simple question, a complex answer. ‘The dark daughter’ is a stark vision of motherhood to be contrasted with other possible more or less benevolent visions. That a child conditions the existence of his parents is something unquestionable that admits many variants and readings. That of Elena Ferrante in the mouth of Maggie Gyllenhaal is neither the most pleasant nor the most condescending, of course, but even with its flaws and certain artificiality inherent in the forms of cinema understood as a speaker of a message, at least, it opens the door to the discussion. A debate that is not always allowed to be on the table, because it challenges the conventions imposed by what is supposed to be the cycle of life that Disney, among others, explained to us in their sweetened way: Born, reproduce, and die . A simple concept but with a very complex development. Fickle. ‘The Dark Daughter’ may not fully adjust its forms, but at a conceptual level it is capable of contaminating our heads through a powerful story, capable of overcoming the consumerist artifice of cinema.

By Juan Pairet Iglesias

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