'Unnatural mother' meaning explored as The Lost Daughter joins Netflix

Amber Peake January 2, 2022
'Unnatural mother' meaning explored as The Lost Daughter joins Netflix


Following a stint in cinemas, drama The Lost Daughter has finally made its way to Netflix. As new audiences watch the release on the streaming platform, curiosity over the term “unnatural mother” has sparked after Olivia Colman’s character Leda uses it to refer to herself in the film.

We explore the meaning behind “unnatural mother” as some identify with the term on social media.

The Lost Daughter | New Year’s Eve Trailer | Netflix

The Lost Daughter | New Year’s Eve Trailer | Netflix
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The Lost Daughter opens dialogue on motherhood

The Lost Daughter is an adaptation of Elena Farrante’s 2006 novel of the same name, which follows Leda, a college professor who meets a young mother while on vacation.

Leda becomes fixated on a young mother and her family, which prompts her to look back on her own time as a young mother herself. One moment in the film sees Leda, who is played by Olivia Colman, refers to herself as an “unnatural mother.”

Talking of the line, Maggie Gyllenhaal, who directed the film, recently discussed how it sparks conversations of what it means to be a mother. In an interview with the Press Association, Gyllenhaal explained: “And that line about her saying she’s an unnatural mother, I think it actually brings to mind ‘What’s a natural mother? And what does that mean?”

In a separate interview with the New York Times, the actress turned director said the phrase was a “straight lift” from Ferrante’s work, and while some suggested she should keep it out, she kept it in.

Gyllenhaal added: “A lot of people told me, take that line out. I also really did do what [Ferrante permitted] and changed many, many things, but I really believe that the script and the film are really in conversation with the book.”

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‘Unnatural mother’ meaning explored

The term “unnatural mother” can be interpreted differently depending on the individual, however, in academia, “unnatural” in the context of motherhood is seen to refer to a mother who perhaps deviates from societal expectations.

Therefore someone calling themselves an “unnatural mother” could mean they raised their child away from conventions or what is “natural” to other mothers.

Elsewhere the term could also relate the term to the emotional side of being a mother, following the idea parenting comes naturally after welcoming a child, meaning those who perhaps don’t take to motherhood as easily could feel they are “unnatural.”

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Mothers relate to the phrase on social media

As many watch the film following its addition to Netflix, many have taken to Twitter as they identify with the term and the meanings behind it:

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Amber is an entertainment journalist with a love for anything showbiz, celeb or reality TV. After graduating with a degree in Journalism at Brunel University she became a Showbiz Reporter at Express.co.uk. Having written for both HITC and The Focus, Amber is now a staff writer for The Focus covering the latest celeb and entertainment trends.