Based on real events, and inspired by Robert Kolker’s book “Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery“ this American Mystery drama is written by Michael Werwie (Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile). The movie was directed by Liz Garbus and stars Amy Ryan, Thomasin McKenzie, Lola Kirke, and Gabriel Byrne.
Premise: When Mari Gilbert’s (Amy Ryan) daughter disappears, police inaction drives her own investigation into the gated Long Island community where Shannan was last seen. Her search brings attention to over a dozen murdered women.
Review: I’m not sure I can spoil the movie but I’ll keep it simple enough so that if someone like me, with know prior knowledge of this story can experience this film fresh.
The song performed by that haunting voice at the opening credits of the film as images of a scared young woman running in a dark country are showed puts you in the right mood for this movie.
It was striking to me how, in the beginning of this film, when the little sister – Sarra – is first seen, we cannot see her face. It’s a shot of her back, then a few seconds before we see her face, it’s a shot of her mother driving looking back at her while she’s lying down in the backseat of the car. That shot is reminiscent of both a parent looking lovingly at a sleeping child in the back seat of a car, or that of a kidnapper longingly looking at a victim.
There’s a lot to unpack in the first 20min alone. From what Mari and her girls’ life is like, their struggle, family dynamic and past. To the dismissals, and downplaying of legit worrisome events, or the slow change of the narrative within the story: Shannan goes in the span of 5 minutes to a missing grown woman who probably just left, to an implied drug addict and/or dealer, to full on prostitute.
I like how Mari, the mother, is in no way portrayed as a saintly woman to “ramp up” her sympathy factor. She’s a woman who does what she can to make ends meet but clearly is not an attentive mother to the two other daughters she still has at home, almost seeming negligent with them. Shanon appears to be her favorite – before she’s ever missing – and the other two know it as well.
There are subtle things to be picked up in this movie, like a photograph in the Oak Creek home owners’ association building, or the way the dispearance of Shanon gets even more dismissed, ignored, or downplayed as more information is discovered about her character.
I was starting to worry that there wasn’t a single decent man or police officer portrayed in this movie, they all seemed inconvenienced and annoyed by Shannan’s disappearance. But then Joe showed up out of nowhere, then another took action. Yet I don’t feel like man are vilified.
Lost Girls is a harrowing thought provoking true crime story ideal for an investigative podcast – that probably already exists. It needs to stay in the public’s consciousness but mostly needs truth. It is well very well written, masterfully directed with grounded performances.