Written by: Michael Werwie
Starring: Amy Ryan, Thomasin McKenzie, Lola Kirke, Oona Laurence, Dean Winters, Miriam Shor
Missing person cases get plenty of highlights in movies and television because they can happen randomly and finding the person has a low percentage rate depending on how long they have been gone. Some of these searches go on for years where even the best effort by law enforcement may not yield promising results. This does not stop the loved ones of the missing individuals to not fight hard for them, which Lost Girls highlights with a mother unwilling to give up.
Mari Gilbert (Amy Ryan) tries to support her kids financially and emotionally but struggles to do both when she hears about the disappearance of her eldest daughter, Shannan. This prompts her to reach out to law enforcement and she discovers so much incompetence related to the response and remains ardent in her fight to find her daughter.
These missing person stories are ripe ground for exploitation, especially those focusing on the kidnapper or the person who was taken away but Lost Girls keeps the focus squarely on the mother and the people around her. This situation activates the inherent fight in any parent to defend their child and the rest of the characters feel the fury of Mari. Instead of taking what the police present to her with a nod of reassurance, she ensures to hold them accountable for their actions and inactions during this case. While the story begins with the disappearance of Shannan, it transforms into something else when the bodies of four other women get found as well. It demonstrates the political aspects of what it means to define a serial killer, but it also connects Mari with four other women, who have also lost someone important in their lives.
The connection Mari builds with the relatives of the four women found creates a support system for her, as she tries to manage this struggle emotionally and care for her two remaining daughters. Through the conversations she has with these women, she learns about the commonalities they had with Shannan and how the person who might have taken her fits the bill of a serial killer even if the police remain timid of using the term for panic purposes. It shows the power of what caring women can do if they feel their loved ones have been wronged. The other women have the closure of knowing about the definitive death, but Mari must still hold out hope as nothing definitive has occurred as of yet with her daughter’s case. Truly terrifying situations for all of these women but it does bring up the point of it being better to not know the fate of the loved one and hold out hope or to definitely be aware and know they died. Heartbreaking to think about but it comes as part of the reality these women must face.
While much of the story plays out in a straightforward manner as missing person movies go, Lost Girls adds some intrigue in further evaluating the character of Mari. It would be simple to display Mari as a mother just trying her best to ferociously find her daughter but she has her own issues to evaluate and the film allows for this particular opportunity. Her background does not get announced and the crumbs to indicate she and Shannan did not have the best relationship gets dropped but does not get picked up until later in the film. Learning more about the troubled relationship Mari had with her daughter exasperates the pain she feels and demonstrates the difficult decisions she’s made to make for her family.
Amy Ryan does not typically get roles that allow her to shine, but this one allowed her to yell her way through in a glorious way. As this fierce matriarch, she holds nothing back in demanding answers from the police and Ryan takes those scenes and runs with it. She nails the accent necessary for the role and really brings home those scenes where she makes the police officers uncomfortable for their incompetence for the case. Mari serves as a reminder of the humanity involved in a case like this one and how it’s not just some mystery for these detectives to figure out. Amy Ryan deserves more roles like this one as she really brought it.
Fairly conventional in some aspects but well worth the watch, Lost Girls tells the true story of a tragic disappearance, the incompetence of the police involved, and how much peace even traumatic closure can provide. This film does not focus on the scariness of the kidnapping but rather the human element where a mother contends with everything around her to find a daughter with whom she does not have the best relationship with but ultimately still stands as someone she loves. The pain and anguish get felt and expressed by the strong cast and the story overall gets the job done.