Netflix film “Lost Girls” is about the tenacious struggle of a woman determined to find out what really happened to her missing daughter. Although occasionally becoming a little melodramatic as expected, the movie mostly sticks to its dry but engaging storytelling and somber overall tone, and we come to emphasize more with its heroine’s exasperation and frustration, while often chilled by what is suggested along the story.
The story begins with another usual day for Mari Gilbert (Amy Ryan), a hard-working woman who has earned a living for herself and her two young daughters via her menial part-time jobs in one small town of New York state. When her eldest daughter, who has resided in Jersey City, New Jersey, calls and then tells Mari that she will soon come to the town for a dinner, Mari is certainly delighted, but her eldest daughter does not come when Marie and her two daughters are waiting at their home during that evening, and Mari becomes concerned as she does not hear any news from her eldest daughter throughout the next day.
Eventually, Mari decides to take care of this baffling matter for herself, so she goes to Jersey City along with her two daughters, but the situation turns out to be weirder than expected. For example, the boyfriend of her eldest daughter does not provide anything useful information, except suggesting that she should go to a guy who has driven around here and there outside the city for a certain profession of her eldest daughter. Through that guy in question, we come to learn that Mari’s eldest daughter has earned money through prostitution, and it is quite possible that something bad happened to her when she was working in a certain area in Long Island on that day.
Discerning how serious the situation really is, Mari goes to the police, but the police are not particularly interested in finding what happened to her eldest daughter. The Jersey City Police simply dismiss her request just because they did not receive any report on Mari’s eldest daughter, and the same thing can be said about the Long Island State Police, which have been headed by Commissioner Richard Dormer (Gabriel Byrne). Mainly because he almost lost his position due to some recent dishonorable incident, Commissioner Dormer is not particularly willing to get involved in another problematic incident, so he stays as low as possible while tentatively following the procedure along with his men, and that certainly exasperates Mari a lot.
Anyway, she soon goes on a full-throttle mode for pressuring Commissioner Dormer and the Long Island State Police more, and then there comes an unexpected turn in the investigation. Something quite disturbing is accidentally discovered in that area where Mari’s eldest daughter was gone missing, and it strongly suggests that the missing of Mari’s eldest daughter is probably the mere tip of a quite bigger case.
Thanks to the following public buzz surrounding the discovery, Mari can pressure the Long Island State Police more than before, but Commissioner Dormer and his men still do not make much progress despite the growing seriousness of the case, and then a certain insidious possibility comes to grow inside Mari’s mind. Not long before she was gone missing, her eldest daughter made an emergency phone call to 911, but the Long Island State Police was somehow quite late in its response, and it becomes highly possible to Mari that somebody in the Long Island State Police is involved with the case.
And there is a mysterious phone call made to Mari not long after her eldest daughter was gone missing. Thanks to an unexpected tip, she subsequently discovers the identity of the mysterious caller, and that person in question certainly looks suspicious to Mari as residing at a spot not so far from where her eldest daughter was seen for the last time, but there is no definite hard evidence to prove her growing suspicion.
As already announced to us from the very beginning, there will not be any clear answer for Mari in the end, and the screenplay Michael Werwie, which is based on Robert Kolker’s nonfiction book “Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery”, does not hurry itself while steadily focusing on its heroine’s inside and outside struggles. It is later revealed to us that Mari has not been a very good mother to her daughters, but we also feel how much she is determined to find the truth, and we come to admire her dogged determination even though she is not a very nice person to say the least.
It surely helps that director Liz Garbus draws the good performances from her main cast members. While Amy Ryan, who has been one of the most interesting character actresses in US since her breakthrough Oscar-nominated turn in “Gone Baby Gone” (2007), diligently holds the center, several other notable performers in the film including Thomasin McKenzie, Oona Laurence, Lola Kirke, Kevin Corrigan, Dean Winters, and Gabriel Byrne ably fill their respective spots around Ryan, and Reed Birney is particularly effective as a potential prime suspect in the story.
Overall, “Lost Girls” is another solid offering from Netflix, and, in my trivial opinion, you should really check it out considering its main subject, which feels more relevant as our society comes to pay more attention to those victimized women out there these days. As told to us at the end of the film, the case has not been solved yet, and I sincerely hope that there will come resolution and justice for that, no matter how long it takes.