‘The Lost Daughter’ is a psychological drama that follows Leda, who is painfully reminded of her time as a young mother when she encounters Nina and her young daughter, Elena, at the beach. Through some questionable actions (like Leda stealing Elena’s doll) and a few instances of pure chance, the bond between Nina and Leda grows. The film also repeatedly shows us parallels between the two womens’ experiences as young mothers.
Considering how old they are in the film’s frequent flashbacks, Leda’s daughters could very well be of a similar age as Nina. Could Leda have stumbled across her own daughter during the vacation, and is that why she is then besieged by memories of her time as a mother? Let’s dive into the intricate nuances of ‘The Lost Daughter’ and see how Leda and Nina might be related. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Is Nina Leda’s Daughter?
After a brief argument over seating spots on the beach, Leda finds herself speaking to Nina’s sister-in-law, Callie. The conversation quickly turns to where each of them hails from, and we find out that Nina’s family (or at least the one she has married into) are from Queens and have Greek heritage. On the other hand, Leda is revealed to be living in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Through subsequent flashbacks, we then see that during her time as an up-and-coming academic and young mother, Leda lived in Canada with her husband, Joe, and their two daughters, Bianca and Martha.
Most notably, while speaking to Callie, Leda reveals that her daughters are 23 and 25 years old. Considering Nina also appears to be in her twenties, she could, through a convoluted history, be Leda’s long-lost daughter. However, if this were the case, Nina (who looks too old to be 23) would be Bianca, who is Leda’s eldest daughter. When we later see Leda get a call from Bianca, it becomes clear that Nina is not Leda’s daughter. Of course, Nina’s appearance and apparent heritage also seem too different from Leda’s for them to be mother and daughter.
How Are Leda and Nina Related?
Thus, Leda and Nina are not biologically related. However, they are related through the strong parallels that we see through Leda’s eyes. Seeing Nina struggle with the constant demands of her young daughter, Elena, and watching the young mother panic when her daughter gets briefly lost at the beach bring up powerful memories that seemingly take over Leda’s mind. The protagonist thus begins to see her younger self in Nina and even reveals to the latter that she (Leda) abandoned her daughters when they were around Elena’s age.
As Nina reveals her own apprehensions and struggles as a mother, the bond between her and Leda grows. The parallels between the two mothers are further enforced when Leda is reminded of her own doll (which she subsequently passed on to her daughters) after she sees Elena’s doll. Of course, in one of the film’s signature dark turns, Leda subsequently steals the doll, which adds an uncomfortable complexity to her connection with Nina and Elena.
Thus, Leda and Nina are not related through familial connections but share a bond because of their similar (mostly difficult) experiences as young mothers. The way the narrative unfolds makes it appear that Leda sees herself connected to Nina and seemingly tries to correct (or atone for) the mistakes she made as a young mother by befriending Nina and subtly involving herself in the young mother’s affairs.