LOST GIRLS – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

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In the mournful and haunting Lost Girls, it’s more than a little disconcerting and a bit ironic that Dean Winters, the actor who is Mayhem in those Allstate Insurance TV ads, plays a member of the police force that is investigating the real-life murders of a dozen or more women whose remains were found along the South Shore of Long Island, New York. The victims were mostly sex workers and the so-called Long Island serial killer has never been found.

When 24-year-old Shannan Gilbert, who worked as an escort, went missing in 2010 after she was heard on a 911 call running away from an attacker while in a gated community, the police did little to nothing about trying to find her whereabouts – as if a person like her wasn’t worth the trouble.

But the cops didn’t anticipate that Shannan’s blue-collar New Jersey mother, Mari (Amy Ryan, who goes all in on foul-mouthed, bad-ass mother mode), was not going to let them off the hook when it came to discovering what happened to her daughter and the four other young women whose remains were found by accident by a dog. Her main punching bag, however, is Gabriel Byrne’s police commissioner, whose public record as a crime fighter is already compromised before his men took an hour to get to where Shannan had been attacked that night.

Filmmaker Liz Garbus, known for her docs The Fourth Estate and What Happened, Miss Simone?, attempts to present Netflix’s Lost Girls as a harrowing crime procedural — something that Unbelievable, the multi-part Netflix series about a serial rapist, did better. But the heart of the film is the connection forged by the survivors – sorrowful sisters and guilt-ridden mothers – who bond over the similar fates of their daughters. Ryan is the hard-bitten engine driving this charge against simply shrugging off the disappearance of women, prostitutes or not. But the most soulful performance is given by Thomasin McKenzie as Mari’s middle daughter (Jojo Rabbit), who supports her crusading mom even though her own needs are pushed aside.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Lost Girls is AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for March 13, 2020

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Susan Wloszczyna

In her nearly 30 years at USA Today, Susan Wloszczyna interviewed everyone from Vincent Price and Shirley Temple to Julia Roberts and Will Smith. Her coverage specialties include animation, musicals, comedies and any film starring Hayley Mills, Sandy Dennis or hobbits. Her crowning career achievements so far, besides having Terence Stamp place his bare feet in her lap during an interview for The Limey, is convincing the paper to send her to New Zealand twice for set visits, once for The Return of the King and the other for The Chronicles of Narnia and King Kong, and getting to be a zombie extra and interview George Romero in makeup on the set for Land of the Dead. Though not impressive enough for Pulitzer consideration, she also can be blamed for coining the moniker "Frat Pack," often used to describe the comedy clique that includes Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. Her positions have included Life section copy desk chief for four years and a film reviewer for 12 years. She is currently a contributor for the online awards site Gold Derby and is an Oscar expert for RogerEbert.com. Previously, she has been a freelance film reporter and critic, contributing regularly to RogerEbert.com, MPAA’s The Credits, the Washington Post, AARP The Magazine online and Indiewire as well as being a book reviewer for The Buffalo News. She previously worked as a feature editor at the Niagara Gazette in Niagara Falls, N.Y. A Buffalo native, she earned her bachelor's degree in English at Canisius College and a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.