Sitting somewhere between David Fincher’s detective thriller Zodiac and Unbelievable, the Netflix series about serial rape cases, director Liz Garbus’ dense and meticulous drama Lost Girls dives into the murky waters of an unsolved injustice and female neglect.
Based on a true story, which was published as a book by investigative reporter Robert Kolker in 2013, Lost Girls retreads the murder of five young women by the Long Island Serial Killer in 2010, a case which remains unsolved to this day.
Amy Ryan delivers the performance of a lifetime as hardened mother Mari Gilbert, who is taking care of her two youngest daughters Sherre (Jojo Rabbit’s breakout 19-year-old star Thomasin McKenzie) and Sarra (Oona Laurence) as best she can. However, when her world is upended by the disappearance of eldest child Shannan, she soon finds herself caught up in the investigation into the Long Island events.
The victims in question were sex workers, but putting the person first – rather than their profession – makes Lost Girls a truly important, painstaking project which helps to discourage dismissive vocabulary against women. This is a film that calls out every investigator – be they professional or amateur – who fail to treat all people equally.
The film’s weighting leans greatly towards Mari’s search for her daughter, but unfortunately, it somewhat neglects the other women participating in the story. McKenzie is weary and introspective as Sherre, but it often feels like she might have more to say than what the script offers. Similarly, a heartbreaking scene at the end nods to a fatal tear in the relationship between Mari and Sarra, but the film – perhaps deliberately, although frustratingly – leaves the youngest daughter in near-silence for most of its runtime, even though she is rarely out of sight.
For the most part, Lost Girls does make logical sense. But because of the ongoing mystery which enfolds its narrative, Netflix’s latest might have benefited from more time spent dissecting its subjects’ psychology. Instead of using a ‘one year later’ title card and keeping to a tight 90-minute runtime, you wonder whether an extra hour or two of character work might have made this tense thriller even more watchable.
- Director: Liz Garbus
- Starring: Amy Ryan, Thomasin McKenzie, Gabriel Byrne
- Release date: March 13