Movie Review: “Lost Girls”
Mari Gilbert (Amy Ryan) is a single mother of three daughters. Two of her daughters, Sherre (Thomasin McKenzie) and Sarra (Oona Laurence), still live at home, but her eldest daughter Shannan has moved out. Mari has always done her best to make ends meet and provide for her daughters, but one morning, she receives a mysterious phone call, indicating that something has happened to Shannan. Unfortunately, after filing a missing persons report, Mari quickly learns that the police have no intention of hastily trying to find her missing daughter.
Mari chooses to take matters into her own hands, tracking down the last people to have seen Shannan. However, the police have made a shocking discovery. In their attempts to find Shannan, the police have found three bodies off the highway and that all three, like Shannan, were prostitutes. It seems that there is a serial killer in the area. However, the police do not seem to urgently be trying to locate the killer of prostitutes. Thus, through heavy persuasion of her two daughters, Mari meets the families of the three victims in the hopes that they can come together, and put pressure on the police so that they can find Shannan and the person responsible.
The Pros & Cons
Mari & Shannan (+3pts)
Richard Dormer (-3pts)
The Cops & The Community (+4pts)
Sherre & Sarra (-3pts)
The Mystery (+6pts)
The End (-5pts)
Pro: Mari & Shannan (+3pts)
This was an aspect of the story that did not get a ton of focus, but it was compelling whenever it was addressed. Initially, we assumed that Mari was a loving mother and missed Shannan greatly. We assumed that she was a good mother, working as much as possible to put bread on the table. However, as the story progressed, we learned that there was a lot more to that story. Then we began getting bits and pieces of the history between Shannan and Mari, and it made Mari feel real and flawed.
On the surface, Mari was a good mother. While she clearly had done her best, she felt responsible for how Shannan's life turned out. She wanted to find Shannan because she loved her daughter, but she also felt partially responsible for how things turned out the way that they did. It all made Mari a compelling and relatably flawed protagonist. Did this aspect of the story drastically improve my enjoyement of the movie? Honestly, no, but it made Mari more interesting and more layered than every other character in the movie—the rest of the characters were pretty underdeveloped.
Con: Richard Dormer (-3pts)
This guy was annoyingly useless to this movie. He was brought in when the police had discovered that there was a serial killer in the area. He came in, and I kept thinking he was going to be different than all of the other cops. He certainly was, but he was just as little of a help to Mari as the rest of them.
This left me wondering why the filmmakers felt the need to give this guy any focus. He literally did nothing to benefit Mari or her story, so why not take this character out, and give more screen time to other more relevant characters. Who knows, maybe doing so would have even allowed the filmmakers to give a character (other than Mari) any sort of character development. No, instead we got a one-dimensional police commissioner who wanted to do good, but ultimately failed, contributing nothing to the story as a result.
Pro: The Cops & The Community (+4pts)
While pretty typical, I thought the cops being against the protagonist made this story feel like an underdog story. The cops themselves were generic, dirty cops, but as a whole, them being against the main character made this story more interesting than it would have been otherwise. This was sad when realizing that this movie was based on a true story. Nonetheless, for the sake of the movie, I thought them being bad cops made this story easier to get into, as it made it easy to get behind the main character.
Then there was the gated community where Shannan had last been seen. The group of people that lived in this community added an extra layer to this story. On top of Mari having to deal with dirty or incompetent cops, she also quickly realized that there were some strange things going on in this community. I do not want to get into what was going on, nor do I want to spoil anything regarding the people that lived in this community. What I can say is that Mari got the sense that people were trying to cover something up. This made the movie feel more like a thriller, as I was waiting for some dark secret to be revealed. You will need to see the movie to find out if such a reveal ever came, but I liked the extra layer that this community added to this already messed up story.
Con: Sherre & Sarra (-3pts)
These characters could have been interesting, but the filmmakers never dove deep into their stories. First there was Sherre, who was the older of the two sisters still living at home with Mari. She seemed to be more affected by everything that was happening, and she seemed to be carrying a lot of that weight. She had her issues with Mari’s history as a parent to Shannan, but the filmmakers only scratched the surface with this storyline. By not diving deeper into it, the filmmakers made Sherre an annoying character, where fleshing out the storyline properly could have made her and her relationship with her mother really compelling. Then there was Sarra, who was really just a prop in everyone else's story.
Sarra had her own issues, and I will let you discover those issues for yourself, as the filmmakers made this a minor reveal in the story, but there were parallels between the characters of Sarra and Shannan. I found this really interesting, as Mari's role as a mother was very different for these two girls, because Mari was in very different places in her own life when raising each of them. With Sarra, she was a more experienced mother, and she was more mature, so she was more equipped to deal with Sarra’s issues. With Shannan, it was a very different story. I found this interesting, but the filmmakers did not focus on it at all. They had an opportunity to make Mari's story a lot more interesting and compelling, but the filmmakers did not flesh this storyline out at all. They just sort of glossed over it, and it made the character (Sarra) feel like a waste.
Pro: The Mystery (+6pts)
I already touched on this a bit while talking about the gated community earlier in this review, so I will keep this one brief. Nonetheless, the mystery in this movie was engaging. You will feel for Mari, and you will know that Shannan's body was not one of the three bodies discovered off of the highway, so you will share Mari's perhaps naive hope that Shannan may still be alive. It made resolving this mystery feel urgent, it got me engaged in the mystery and it got me invested in wanting to see it resolved. The movie was not perfect, but I thought the filmmakers effectively hyped up the mystery.
Con: The End (-5pts)
I will keep this one brief as well, as I do not want to give anything away, but I was disappointed with the ending of this movie. If you know anything about the real life events that this movie was based on, then you will know how a movie about it could feel somewhat anti-climactic. Thus, the filmmakers really had two options, as far as how to approach this issue. Unfortunately, neither option was without its downside.
Option one would have been to fictionalize the ending to this story to make it more climactic, but doing so would have been historically inaccurate. The other option would be to stay true to the real events, but doing so would have resulted in a disappointingly anti-climactic ending. The filmmakers went with option two, and I understand the dilemma that they were in, but the result was still an unsatisfying ending. It left me wondering why they made this movie in the first place. The real events were interesting, but they did not have a satisfying conclusion, and I thought this movie suffered as a result of that.
Grade: C+ (77pts)
This movie was based on the fascinatingly tragic true events surrounding the Long Island serial killer, and one mother's desperation to find her daughter and bring justice to those responsible for her daughter’s disappearance. The unfortunate reality was that the true events did not have a very satisfying ending. I ultimately thought that this hurt the ending of the movie, as the filmmakers tried to stay true to the real events, and by doing so, made an anti-climactic finish to the movie. Fortunately, liked Mari's story. She felt a tremendous amount of guilt over what came of Shannan's life, and she felt an incredible amount of desperation toward finding her. It was easy to sympathize with Mari’s story, but the filmmakers could have made it a lot more impactful than it was by focusing more on Mari's relationship with her other two daughters.
I liked the mystery element of the movie, and I enjoyed the mysterious and sketchy gated community where a lot of this story took place. I also liked the bad cops, who were either incredibly indifferent to Shannan's disappearance, directly involved in it, or incredibly incompetent. Although it was pretty stereotypical for the cops to be this way, it really made Mari's story feel like an underdog story, which made it easy to root for her. Then there was the commissioner, who was a useless character that took up way too much screen time when considering how little he contributed to the story. It was not a bad movie, but it had the potential to be a lot better than it was, had the filmmakers made some different decisions.