April 24, 2024

Dakota Johnson’s emotionally stirring performances leave a lasting impact. Here’s a ranking of her most heart-wrenching roles.

Dakota Johnson’s Depth as a Dramatic Actress

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Since breaking out in the blockbuster “Fifty Shades” franchise, Dakota Johnson has proven herself as a versatile actress capable of tackling complex dramatic roles. While the steamy romance films brought her mainstream popularity, Johnson’s true talents shine through in grittier, emotionally demanding performances. She fearlessly inhabits troubled, complicated characters grappling with trauma, loss, and inner turmoil. Three roles in particular highlight Johnson’s mastery at conveying raw human emotion on screen – The Lost Daughter, Our Friend, and A Bigger Splash.

The Lost Daughter (2021)

In Maggie Gyllenhaal’s acclaimed directorial debut The Lost Daughter, Johnson takes on the challenging lead role of Nina. The psychological drama follows Nina, an American college professor, as she vacations alone in Greece. There, she becomes obsessed with watching a young mother, Leda (Olivia Colman), and her daughters from afar. As Nina’s fixation grows, disturbing revelations emerge about her own dark past.

Johnson imbues Nina with a palpable sense of unease, longing, and unresolved grief just beneath the surface. In solo scenes, her expressive eyes and subtle mannerisms convey a woman wrestling with deep inner turmoil. Flashes of memory reveal Nina’s own history with motherhood ended in trauma, leaving lingering scars. Johnson gracefully walks the line between sympathy and unease for her character – we understand Nina’s pain but also the unsettling nature of her fixation.

The climactic confrontation between Nina and Leda contains some of Johnson’s most raw, uninhibited acting. As Nina’s tragic backstory floods to the surface, Johnson unleashes a maelstrom of anguish, regret and maternal longing. Her guttural screams and physicality are viscerally upsetting yet cathartic to watch. It’s a tour de force scene that cemented Johnson as a serious dramatic powerhouse. For her fearless embodiment of such a messy, complicated character, Johnson earned widespread acclaim including Independent Spirit Award nominations.

Our Friend (2020)

In the moving true story Our Friend, Johnson takes on another deeply emotional role as Nicole Teague. The film tells the real account of journalist Matt Teague (Casey Affleck) whose wife Nicole is diagnosed with terminal cancer. As Nicole’s health deteriorates, their close friend Dane Faucheux (Jason Segel) steps in to help care for the family.

Johnson brings profound empathy and humanity to Nicole’s plight. From the moment of diagnosis, she gracefully portrays the rollercoaster of emotions – denial, fear, sadness but also moments of joy cherishing life and loved ones. As Nicole’s body weakens, Johnson movingly embodies the physical toll through subtle changes in posture, expression and mobility. Yet her spirit and love for her family never wavers.

In particularly raw scenes, Johnson lays bare Nicole’s vulnerability and fragility with bracing honesty. Her emotional reunion with Matt after a medical setback is a tour de force of acting purely through facial expressions and body language. Johnson lets the camera linger in Nicole’s eyes filling with tears, conveying a lifetime of love and loss in a single glance. She brings audiences fully into Nicole’s perspective, honoring the real woman’s courageous fight till the end. For her deeply compassionate and authentic performance, Johnson earned rave reviews and a Independent Spirit Award nomination.

A Bigger Splash (2015)

In acclaimed filmmaker Luca Guadagnino’s remake of La Piscine, Johnson holds her own amongst acting powerhouses Tilda Swinton and Ralph Fiennes in A Bigger Splash. She plays Penelope, a young American musician who joins a vacationing couple, rock star Marianne (Swinton) and ex-lover Paul (Fiennes) and his daughter on a private island in Italy.

Beneath Penelope’s carefree hippie vibes, Johnson imbues the character with a perceptive intelligence. She watches the volatile relationship between Marianne and Paul with growing unease, like a spectator at a car crash in slow motion. Johnson subtly conveys Penelope’s discomfort through fidgety energy, questioning glances and a tightness around the eyes. As tensions and revelations mount, she lets Penelope’s façade crack to show the turmoil within.

In a climactic argument, Johnson unleashes Penelope’s bottled up desperation and confusion in an explosive outburst. Her raw anguish and flailing physicality are unnerving to witness. Even in the film’s surreal flourishes, Johnson anchors the audience with her grounded, empathetic portrayal of a young woman out of her depth. It’s a mesmerizing display of nuance from the then-young actress amongst acclaimed cinematic titans. Johnson holds her own and more in this volatile psychological thriller.

Artistry and Acclaim

These three roles exemplify Dakota Johnson’s depth and artistry as a dramatic actress. She fearlessly inhabits complex, damaged women wrestling with trauma, loss and inner turmoil. Johnson brings profound empathy, humanity and nuance to each character. Through subtle facial expressions, body language and emotional outbursts, she fully embodies their interior lives and vulnerabilities.

Audiences are drawn into each character’s perspective, sharing in their pain as well as moments of joy. Johnson makes their inner journeys viscerally felt. Her raw performances have earned widespread critical acclaim, including Independent Spirit Award nominations for The Lost Daughter and Our Friend.

While the “Fifty Shades” franchise introduced Johnson to mainstream audiences, these dramatic roles prove where her true talents lie. She fearlessly takes on messy, complicated characters to reveal deeper truths about the human experience. Dakota Johnson has established herself as a forceful dramatic actress for the modern age – one who brings grit, empathy and emotional honesty to every role. Her artistry will only continue enriching cinema in the years to come.

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