Lost Girls  Netflix Review – An unfocused take on police ignorance and a plea for justice
The new Netflix film “Lost Girls” seems to hint that there are richer subtexts that it withholds within itself. In the course of its 95 minutes runtime, it often creeps up on those hidden themes. Which is why it is incredibly frustrating that the director never seems to care for them at all. Unfocused on what it wants to be, the film’s half-hearted approach to an essential story leaves you disappointed.
Renowned documentarian Liz Garbus opts for a fictional approach for her investigation of the true story of the Long Island killer aka the Craigslist Ripper. Of course, there are snippets of real news footage and other elements used throughout the film that hearkens back to her meditative approach, but these elements are further nullified with insipid storytelling that is unfocused and unengaging.
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The plot revolves around the disappearance of Shanon Gilbert. A 24-year old sex-worker whose SOS call to the police after her client call to the posh Oak Beach community didn’t sound heartening. There were drugs involved and no one – including the police was actually interest in the whereabouts. That is until, Mari Gilbert (Amy Ryan) – mother of the said ‘prostitute’ drives up to Long Island and starts pressurizing Police Commissioner Richard Dormer (Gabriel Byrne) to step up his game.
At the onset “Lost Girls” declares that it is based on a real-life story that still remains unsolved. So, the mystery around the investigation doesn’t seem like a distraction. Garbus grounds her tale as a mother’s plea for justice. It is shown from the perspective of Mari Gilbert – A feisty, middle-aged woman who can go to any extent to get justice. While it isn’t a bad narrative choice, Garbus’ film never seems to stay focused. Subplots like the one about a confused sex worker Kim (Lola Kirk) among other take control. While this isn’t a bad thing, all the themes that “Lost Girls” wishes to put forth are left scrapped through the surface.
Shanon Gilbert’s relationship with her daughters – one of whom is severely disturbed with bipolar tendencies is another aspect the film focuses on. While it is one of the more interesting subheads – featuring Thomasin McKenzie (Leave No Trace & Jojo Rabbit breakout) as the daughter caught in the ripples of having to be the one who keeps it all together – some of these strands are again left in splits for catching up to its rather unconvincing stretch of police ignorance.
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The biggest asset of an otherwise disappointing mess is an outstanding performance by the ever-dependable Amy Ryan. She is never portrayed as a perfect mom. In fact, she is often the reason for most of the conflicts in “Lost Girls” and there isn’t a wrong note in her otherwise muddled character structure. The writing, on the other hand, doesn’t support any of the aspects of this Netflix misfire that disengages in faux feminism, class politics and a police procedural that is so standard that its cheap eye for tantalization leaves you cringing.
Lost Girls is now streaming on Netflix