The Daughter (La Hija) (2021) Movie Ending Explained & Themes Analysed: ‘The Daughter’ is a Spanish thriller directed by Manuel Martín Cuenca, starring Irene Virgüez, Javier Gutiérrez, Patricia López and Juan Carlos Villanueva. It premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2021, before getting its theatrical release in Spain in November 2021. An austere work with a limited number of characters, it doesn’t resort to jarring twists in order to maintain the audience’s interest but lets its story unfold at its own pace, therefore becoming a film that requires some patience and which eventually proves quite rewarding.

The Daughter (2021) Movie Synopsis & Plot Summary:

Irene escapes from her juvenile detention center in a small Spanish town. She is given a place to live in his sprawling country house by Javier, a man who works as a tutor at that very center. There, he and Adela, his wife, will keep Irene for the duration of her pregnancy, and even after that should she wish to stay on. Irene’s boyfriend, Osman, is in prison and she is desperate to see him, at least so that she can inform him that everything is fine with her. Javier, when informed about Irene’s escape, keeps pretending like he doesn’t know where she is and no one really suspects him.

He even goes so far as to report her disappearance at the police station to further evade suspicion. Javier and Adela are seemingly benevolent, taking care of Irene like a daughter. Irene has a dream that her child will be a daughter. She is constantly reminded to not risk exposure as that would lead to an unpleasant outcome for everyone – Javier and Adela will be imprisoned, Irene will be sent back to the detention center with an extended sentence and the child will be taken away from her by Social Services.

Now, there is a catch to Javier and Adela’s charity. Once the baby is born, they’ll take her in and raise her up as their own child. For delivering the baby, Irene will be paid handsomely with which she can leave and start a new life. An obstacle arrives in the way of the plan when Osman is released and becomes desperate to meet Irene. So Javier sets up a meeting between the two, hoping that it’ll reduce Irene’s anxiety and boredom caused by having to stay inside the house at all times.

via @TIFF

Instead, the meeting makes Irene determined to keep the child and elope with Osman, following which the two of them will raise her on their own. This comes as a severe shock to Adela who was promised this child by Javier and had made preparations in light of that, including setting up a room, especially for the baby. So, Javier kills Osman secretly to rid themselves of the liability. Irene’s sheltering soon turns into proper captivity as Javier and Adela resolve to keep her till her daughter is born, after which, in all probability, they’ll murder her too.

The Daughter (2021) Movie Themes Explained:

Captivity and Gaslighting:

Initially, Irene’s stay at Javier and Adela’s house is seemingly pleasant. In her own words, her room is bigger than any she’s ever had. She gets square meals and the couple lets her do whatever she pleases. Javier even teaches her how to shoot a gun as she is desirous of learning. We aren’t at this point, aware of the arrangement that Javier has with Irene, other than a passing mention of how she can visit her baby whenever she wishes but that too sounds like them behaving like her guardians.

This idyllic setting, therefore, becomes a veneer for something quite sinister boiling underneath. If our sympathy lies with Javier and Adela at the beginning given their protective concern towards Irene, their malice starts to unfold and reveal their true nature gradually with Osman’s arrival. His disappearance is offscreen and obviously a lie, as we find out within a few more scenes. His arrival and subsequent death set off Irene’s search for her autonomy. By seeing that Irene’s indifference towards her child has changed, her captors recognize the risk of keeping her free inside the house, so they move her into their attic, locking her inside in a fashion no different than that of a prison.

It is around this time that Adela’s apparent hostility towards Irene starts to become prominent. Adela, like Dalle’s character in ‘Inside‘, is convinced that Irene’s child is her own and that the girl is just a mere body being used for that child to come into this world. One thing that’s never mentioned but can be surmised is that Irene didn’t exactly run away from the detention center but her escape was rather planned by Javier to facilitate the adoption. This again points out the selfish nature of Javier’s charity. In a particular scene, Javier tells Irene how at first, she wanted to abort her baby and he convinced her to keep it. Irene denies that thereby clarifying that he is gaslighting her into letting go of any attachment with her child, by making her feel like she never wanted it.

When he sees that this isn’t convincing her, Javier goes so far as to suggest that Irene is quite young and therefore can have a child whenever she wishes but the one at present is theirs. This objectified treatment of her becomes the justification for her captivity. Her large room, flooded with fresh air and sunlight is replaced with a dark room in the attic whose windows are boarded up and where, to silence her, Adela sedates her as a means of keeping her away from the police. This poor treatment of Irene highlights how much her status as a juvenile delinquent makes it justifiable for Adela and Javier to use her. Their clearly respected position in society, and Javier’s visible amiability, is what they exploit in this ghastly attempt at trying to have a child.

via @TIFF


‘The Daughter’ provides a rounded look at various kinds of motherhood. There is Irene, who is too young to be a mother and was going to abort her baby, realizing her incapacity to raise one. There is Adela, who is shown to be infertile in some way but also someone who is desperate to have a child of her own, regardless of her biological deficiency.

Then there’s Irene’s mother, who is only mentioned but as we learn, is abusive towards Irene and a drug addict. So there’s a mother who doesn’t want to be one, there’s one who really does and there’s one who, despite being a mother, mistreats her position. If Irene’s mother’s behavior portrays someone who is cruel to their child, it is not a stretch to presume that she didn’t want Irene as a daughter in the first place.

Here, it can be observed that Irene too is at first, not too concerned with her child. Her chief concern is to get back together with Osman and she seems perfectly fine with the arrangement she has made with Javier. Yet as Javier and Adela’s grips over her tighten, so does her determination to free herself and be a mother to her child as opposed to abandoning her. Adela’s desperation then rubs off on Irene. Yet unlike Adela, who delegated the realization of her dream to her husband, Irene takes matters into her own hands.

The fact that Irene is being paid essentially for the baby shows how little Adela actually knows about the act of being a mother, viewing it as merely a business transaction. Irene’s resolve is further strengthened after her daughter is born and taken away from her instantly. In this fashion, ‘The Daughter’ shows motherhood as a quality that’s both innate and at the same time, acquired, and which cannot simply be erased or undermined through manipulation or misdirection.

The Daughter (2021) Movie Ending Explained:

After the birth of her child, Adela is to leave with the child while Javier is to stay back and take care of business, which obviously refers to killing Irene and disposing of her. At this point, Irene pulls a nail out of the wooden boards that had been put up on the attic window and use it as a weapon to kill Javier. Following this, she steals a gun from Javier’s cabinet and uses it to shoot and kill Adela, then their dogs. Then, she proceeds to leave with her baby for an uncertain future, having rid herself of her captors.

Like ‘Straw Dogs‘, Irene’s timidity gradually becomes feral as she is exposed to the inhumanity of Javier and Adela. The manner in which she manages to evade any kind of injury from Javier’s hounds, despite having a tremendous fear of dogs as we learn at the beginning of the film shows Irene coming into her own and learning to deal with problems that go beyond her needs, thereby making the film a sort of coming-of-age story about a waif.

While the couple’s treatment of her, which included demeaning her ability to be a mother, is obviously pathetic, it provides a twisted silver lining – it lets Irene know that she at least has one quality, which is a mother’s instinct for her child’s protection. It is this very instinct that then helps her shed off any kind of reliance on others as she decides to raise her child on her own, despite having no clear path to take except for her steely resolve.

Also, Read: Good Madam Movie Explained: Ending & Themes Analysed

The Daughter (La hija) M0vie Links – IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes
The Daughter (La hija) M0vie Cast – Javier Gutiérrez, Patricia López Arnaiz, Irene Virgüez
Where to watch The Daughter

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