Film review: ‘Lost Girls’ — police apathy at a mother’s grief is hard to swallow

A mother attempts to trace her missing daughter in this film that is based on a true story. (Supplied)
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Updated 16 March 2020

Film review: ‘Lost Girls’ — police apathy at a mother’s grief is hard to swallow

CHENNAI: In Netflix’s latest crime drama “Lost Girls,” from first-time feature director Liz Garbus, a mother moves heaven and earth to trace her missing daughter in the face of abject police apathy.

Sensitively made, “Lost Girls,” which premiered at the recent Sundance Film Festival and is based on a bestselling book by journalist Robert Kolker, details the Long Island serial killer, who is believed to have murdered 10 to 16 girls, all over 20. But “Lost Girls” is about one missing young woman, whose mother’s search leads to the discovery of four more bodies.




The crime drama premiered at the recent Sundance Film Festival. (Supplied)

A true story, it details a mother’s (Mari Gilbert, played by Amy Ryan) guilt and anguish over the disappearance of her eldest daughter, Shannon. Suffering from a bipolar condition, she had spent most of her life in foster homes, because Mari, with two more daughters and struggling to meet ends meet, could not handle Shanon’s violent mood swings. She turns to prostitution, and even sends money to her mother, who accepts it with no shame or guilt.

Shanon’s case is ignored by the police and Mari coaxes the mothers of the other girls whose bodies had been found to start their own investigation.




“Lost Girls” is based on a bestselling book by journalist Robert Kolker. (Supplied)

Garbus, the director, is a noted documentary filmmaker and her skills shine through in this beautifully shot and edited feature work. Each frame is gloomy and desolate and her cast is captured looking raw and real; not fresh out of a makeup trailer.

“Lost Girls” focuses on the mothers’ grief and their determination to find the criminal — it refrains from glorifying the horrific crimes. It is also disturbing to note how the cops ignore and even neglect Shanon’s case because of her profession. Undertones of anger and disgust at the victim shaming run throughout the film and one of the biggest takeaways is the rally against seeing the victims as less than worthy because of their desperate circumstances. But although Garbus and writer Michael Werwie show wonderful restraint, “Lost Girls” — even at just 95 minutes of runtime — may appear sluggish and plodding at times.


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