Thu, 26 Mar 2020
Lost Girls (15)
Running time 1hr 35min
Lost Girls is currently number 1 on the Netflix streaming platform. Determined to find her missing daughter, a desperate woman launches a personal investigation that leads police to the unsolved cases of murdered sex workers
BASED upon the New York Times best-selling book of the same name, Lost Girls tells the story of Mari Gilbert, a mother of three who drives law enforcement agencies to search for her missing daughter and, in the process, sheds light upon the murders of multiple female sex workers in the Long Island area, committed by the yet unidentified Long Island serial killer.
It’s a true story, signposted by the film’s opening title “an unsolved American mystery” and its intermittent use of real news reports and features. It’s a clear attempt to capitalise on the popularity of true crime documentaries by taking it one step further and dramatising the tragic story. However, although this idea sounds good in theory, a poor script and wooden acting can’t quite translate the dark events and heavy emotions into an affecting story.
Amy Ryan stars as Gilbert, a tough, no-nonsense mother who will do anything to find her missing daughter Shannan, despite the law’s seeming lack of drive to push the investigation, putting down Shannan’s disappearance to “just another dead hooker”. Thomasin McKenzie plays Gilbert’s daughter Sherre, whose conflicted thoughts about her mother add emotional complexity to the family’s relationship. Gabriel Byrne also stars as the police commissioner in charge of the case.
Much of the acting is lacklustre and flat, but I wouldn’t put that solely down to the actors – rather the dull-as-dishwater script. Much of the dialogue is plain, zestless and prosaic, with the cast hardly trying to add any exciting flavour.
There are awkward cuts throughout the film that often give the impression that the most interesting parts in scenes have been cut and left on the editing room floor.
A prime example of this is an argument between Mari and Sherre that, just at a critical moment, cuts away to a different scene and the emotional struggle just slips away, never to be mentioned again.
The story of the investigation is a vaguely interesting one and I appreciate the sentiment of the filmmakers placing more emphasis on the victims of the crime, rather than the sensationalism of the killer or the investigation.
But the emotionless portrayals onscreen never allowed me to connect and be affected by the awfulness of the tragedy.
Lost Girls proves that the true crime Netflix phenomenon is still going strong, especially as the film is currently number 1 on the streaming platform’s films rankings, above horror hits such as It and A Quiet Place.
But it’s a genre that should stick to its documentary roots or play into a more fictionalised and hard-hitting mode, à la Spotlight or Goodfellas.
If you’re a true crime fanatic then Lost Girls is for you, but don’t expect the world of this bland and neutered investigation thriller.