Linda Cook review: ‘Lost Girls’ is a grim true-life tale

Local News

This is not a movie with a happy ending.

That’s because the story continues, in real life, for families who lost loved ones and still seek justice. This is a grim film for grownups only.

Liz Garbus, director of such compelling documentaries as “A Dangerous Son,” helms this docudrama/mystery that’s also a character study of a mother determined to find justice.

The film is based on Robert Kolker’s 2013 book “Lost Girls,” a document of a still-unsolved mystery about the deaths of several young women who had become escorts.

Amy Ryan (“Gone Baby Gone” ) plays Mari, a Long Island working-class mother with three daughters – one of whom doesn’t show up for a much-anticipated dinner. When Shannan doesn’t show up or call, Mari calls the police, and goes so far as to talk to her daughter’s boyfriend.

With every question and every person she meets, Mari becomes more determined to know her daughter’s fate. The wheels of the criminal-justice system seem to turn incredibly slowly, especially after it is learned Shannan is a prostitute.

Soon, a K-9 turns up ghastly evidence: The bodies of four slain young women are found close to a gated community. But none of them is Mari’s daughter.  

Commissioner Doman (Gabriel Byrne) takes on the case, and it soon explodes in media reports. Mari never lets up on Doman and his team, checking out -sometimes with the help of her two other daughters – people he already has interviewed and locations he already has searched.

It becomes obvious to Mari the officials may not think her daughter’s death is important enough to spend many time or resources on. Meanwhile, she meets the loved ones who, like her, have lost their daughters, and the group becomes a force to be reckoned with.

The performances are solid, and Ryan is especially noteworthy as the mother whose desperation grows with every passing day.

The movie, like the book, will leave you with more questions than answers. It may not be easy to watch, but it will not fail to move you.

Rated: R for foul language and other adult material.

Running time: One hour and 35.

Streaming on Netflix.

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