The Lost Daughter Ending Explained

By Marc Miller
Published: December 30, 2021 (Last updated: February 6, 2023)
Netflix film The Lost Daughter ending explained

We discuss the ending of the Netflix film The Lost Daughter (2021), which will contain spoilers.

Ready Steady Cut film critic, M.N. Miller, called Maggie Gyllenhaal’s The Lost Daughter “An absorbing and unsettling depiction of different stages of motherhood.”

The Lost Daughter’s main character, Leda, is played by two actresses. Olivia Colman plays her as a professor and mother of two grown daughters vacationing in Greece. A younger version, where she has two small daughters, is played by Jessie Buckley. The older Leda is going through a bit of a midlife crisis. She has her eyes set on a young waiter (Paul Mescal) and ignores the flirtations of an older gentleman (Ed Harris). She also is being triggered over her shortcomings as a mother by being unable to look away from a young woman, Nina (Dakota Johnson), and her small child.

When Nina loses her daughter, Leda helps with the search and finds her playing in the water on a small secluded part of the beach. The thing is, she doesn’t do anything altruistically because she steals the poor little girl’s doll. As the movie progresses, with younger Leda flashbacks giving us a better understanding of older Olivia’s behavior, the story develops. She begins to give motherly advice to Nina while selfishly keeping quiet that she has her daughter’s toy. After several points, Leda was told how the child was getting no sleep and crying without it.

When she reveals to Nina that she had the doll and took it, Nina takes out the hatpin that Leda used to help her keep her hair up. She stabs Leda in the abdomen with it. Also, she reveals that she left her daughters for three years while her mother and husband took care of them. There is also a flashback where the younger Leda leaves her husband and abandons her two daughters by walking out the door right in front of them as a flashback.  

The Lost Daughter Ending Explained

The ending has Leda leaving her vacation in the Greek islands early. Her wound is still bleeding. As she drives to the airport, she pulls to the side of the road, and we see her later wake up on a sandy and rocky beach. She takes a call from her daughter, Bianca. As she talks to her daughter, she pulls out an orange. She looks up. As her daughter talks to her, she peels off the rind. Then, suddenly, she has a few tears flowing down her cheeks.

What does it all mean? Leda picked up a piece of fruit from the bowl on the kitchen table near the film’s beginning. She discovered they were all rotting and covered in mold from the bottom (that she could not see on the surface). Before this, she was watching Nina and her daughter on the beach. She then becomes triggered, emotionally. This symbolizes that she is entering a dark place for her mental health. The final scene indicates that their relationship is repaired by talking to her daughter, and their relationship is healthy.

Just like the orange in her hand.

What did you think of the ending of the Netflix film The Lost Daughter? Comment below!

More Stories

Endings Explained, Movies, Movies - Ending Explained, Netflix, Streaming Service