A woman’s picture that doesn’t adhere to a “chick flick” formula or detail a reckoning with one’s past that ends inevitably in terminal disease. It began for Leda (Olivia Coleman and, in flashback, Jessie Buckley) as a quiet sabbatical at a picturesque seaport in southern Italy. The mincing English professor (Olivia Coleman), divorced and estranged from her two daughters, finds her solace ruptured by a family of parnevu deplorables on loan from Queens who overtake the resort. After a hellacious first encounter — she refuses to move her beach chair — Leda slowly warms to the family, most notably Nina (Dakota Johnson), the tribe’s raven-haired temptress. The more she observes through her black, size 114 sunglasses, the more she begins questioning her own worth and the “crushing responsibility” that is being a parent. Written and directed with reserve to spare, one look at Maggie Gyllenhaal’s complex, masterfully executed debut assures us that she's spent her years before the camera paying close attention to what goes on behind it. And on a personal note, I wish there was a Leda in attendance every time I set foot inside the abominable AMC La Jolla. (2021) — Scott Marks
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