Determined to find her missing daughter, a desperate woman named Mari Gilbert (Amy Ryan) launches a personal investigation that leads police to the unsolved cases of murdered sex workers.
Based on the novel Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker, this feature film adaptation directed by Liz Garbus is an admirable effort and can be hard-hitting when it comes to its subject matter and some of its intense sequences, even if the storytelling was quite uneven.
Throughout the course of the film, we transition from multiple different points of time and we do so incredibly rapidly. There aren’t a lot of scenes in which we, as an audience, can sit back and contemplate what we just watched. It’s definitely the biggest problem with Lost Girls and makes for unintentionally jarring moments.
Within the first thirty minutes of the film, Mari is seen frequently interrogating several people that could possibly know information regarding the whereabouts of her missing daughter. Once she confronts the person, they always tell her to talk to this other person that she may have known. Then, she goes on over to the next person to interrogate them about information, and it got extremely stale fast.
Thankfully, this movie is accompanied by stellar cinematography throughout by director of photography Igor Martinovic. All of the frames on display are truly astounding. There are tons of wide shots here that are greatly impressive and will most certainly stick with you long after the credits roll.
Another element that saves this movie from being a failure is namely the performances from everybody, but especially Amy Ryan. I haven’t seen her in a ton of her work in the past, but the role of hers that I am the most familiar with is that of Holly Flax on the hit mockumentary American television comedy series The Office.
On that show, she portrays a highly goofy, fun-loving and hilarious character that quickly bonds with regional manager of Dunder Mifflin, Michael Scott. In Lost Girls, she plays the exact opposite, and it works with chilling intensity. Mari has no time to waste. She will do whatever it takes to find out what happened to her daughter. There’s never a moment where she loses track of her mission. I truly did not expect her to give the emotionally raw and oftentimes devastating performance that she ended up giving.
But aside from her, a large portion of the other actors did fantastic things in their roles too. Thomasin McKenzie (Jojo Rabbit, The King) portrays one of Mari’s daughters, Sherre. Her character goes to places that were definitely unexpected but welcomed. The story that plays out with her was incredibly interesting.
In case you do not know the real-life story behind this movie, I won’t go into too much detail regarding another one of Mari’s daughters, Sarra, but I have to mention how great Oona Laurence (Big Time Adolescence, Southpaw) was in the role. Watching her arc unfold was deeply intriguing.
All of these actors come together as one and deliver remarkable performances that further boost the heartwrenching and disturbing story on display. Although a lot of it is definitely uneven and extremely rushed, whenever the filmmakers’ pause on certain plot points and choose to explore them further, they hit hard. This all leads to a third act that was surprisingly emotional yet immensely rewarding and is an exceptional tale of how far one will go to uncover the answers behind where their loved ones are.
Lost Girls‘ storytelling may be a bit rocky at times, but its emotionally heartwrenching plot elements and terrific performances save the film from being forgettable.
Overall Grade: B-
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout
Directed by: Liz Garbus
Distributed by: Netflix
Release Date: March 13, 2020
Running Time: 95 minutes