‘The Lost Daughter’ follows the tumultuous emotional journey of Leda, who comes across a young mother and daughter while on vacation and is reminded of her own troubled past as a mother. Through some questionable actions and a series of coincidences, Leda slowly becomes closer to Nina. The protagonist also relates to the young mother and repeatedly sees parallels between herself and Nina as mothers.
The intricate narrative follows what appears on the surface like a chance meeting between Leda and Nina and takes it to a remarkable and violent conclusion. What finally pushes Nina to stab Leda? Let’s dive into ‘The Lost Daughter’ and find out. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Why Does Nina Stab Leda?
Near the end of the film, Nina comes over to Leda’s flat to ask whether she can use the apartment to continue her affair with Will. However, the young mother seems more curious about Leda’s earlier revelation about how, as a young mother, she (Leda) abandoned her daughters for three years. We then see Nina break down completely as she tells Leda about how she feels anxious and suffocated. She even asks Leda whether the feeling ever stops, showing just how tortured the young woman is.
Though it is clear from the start of the film that Nina is unhappy, in this late scene, we realize just how trapped she feels in her new (and exhaustingly constant) role as a mother. Apart from having recently met Leda, another reason it takes so long for Nina to open up is that she comes from what appears to be a hardened, likely criminal family. Nina is not used to opening up and sharing her emotions, making her outburst all the more dramatic.
Thus, it is a significantly trusting move for Nina to open up to Leda. The latter also knows about Nina’s dangerous affair with Will. In essence, it feels like Nina, after a long time (or possibly even for the first time), finds a person (in Leda) who she can talk openly to because they know all her secrets.
This makes Leda’s subsequent revelation that she stole Elena’s doll all the more traumatizing and dark for Nina. When Leda walks in with the doll and returns it, the young mother is left speechless and cannot fathom why Leda, her (apparent) confidante, would do something this sadistic. As she points out, the act of stealing and hiding the doll is especially evil since Leda saw Nina and her family frantically searching for the toy to pacify the inconsolable young Elena.
Thus, Nina quickly becomes furious as Leda’s seemingly inexplicable actions sink in, and it is clear that she feels heavily betrayed. Considering how much she opens up to Leda, Nina’s indignation is easy to imagine. She then takes the hatpin that Leda earlier gifts her and forcefully stabs Leda with it. Though she acts like she is merely returning the hatpin, Nina quite deliberately pushes the sharp object into Leda.
Nina’s violent and arguably excessive rebuttal to Leda’s revelation about stealing the doll is most likely driven by the young wife’s seemingly violent family. Throughout the film, we are given hints of just how rowdy and lawless the rest of her companions are. Thus, despite so far seeing the relatively softer, motherly side of Nina, we are now given a glimpse of her hardened, violent tendencies as she stabs Leda in anger.
The change in attitude and shift towards violence is further emphasized when Nina tells Leda to watch her back. Thus, the film closes with us seeing a completely different side of Nina and a justification for the multiple times Leda is warned to stay away from “the family” because of their criminal tendencies.