Serial killers have fueled the imaginations of many creators. However, what gives cold back with Lost Girls , broadcast on Netflix, is that under the cover of fiction, the gifted Liz Garbus tells a very real story. That of the disappearance of Shannan Gilbert, 24, and his frantic search by his mother which will lead to the discovery of the bodies of a dozen prostitutes murdered in Long Island, New York. The kind of film that makes you scream with indignation, until the blunt blow at the end – impossible not to shed several tears…
To this day, the Long Island series killer still remains offshore. And the feature does not seek to unravel the mystery of the murders, even if it points to a suspect in particular …
Liz Garbus has a solid background as a documentalist. The award-winning director, twice nominated for an Oscar, including What Happened, Miss Simone? (2015), was based on Robert Kolker’s investigative book, also entitled Lost Girls (2013).
It takes us into the desperate daily life of Mari Gilbert (Amy Ryan), a single parent who works two jobs to support her two daughters. Shannan, the eldest, no longer lives at home, but comes regularly and helps her mother financially. She also calls to announce her visit the next day.
Then more news … Mari will therefore move heaven and earth to find her, especially when she discovers that the police are dragging their feet. The investigator responsible for the case displays an obvious contempt: “why look for a prostitute?” We would like to answer him: “and justice in there?”
Commissioner Dormer (Gabriel Byrne) will end up taking seriously this woman of character with a beefy forehead who conducts his own investigation and comes back to relentlessly charge. Liz Garbus does not describe a perfect mother to us, which curiously makes her more endearing. Rather, the director highlights the guilt that undermines her, the hope and anger that drives her to ensure that no one forgets her daughter.
But his fight is uneven. Because Shannan was last seen at the home of a client who lives in a gated community – a place where the wealthy do not like being interfered in their private life…
Liz Garbus opted for fiction, but the reflexes of documentalists remain present in his approach, especially in the use of period reports. This gives the whole an even more concrete and real touch. She also succeeds in humanizing the missing by demonstrating that they are the daughter or sister of other women (gathered for a vigil in their memory).
We can however criticize him for a somewhat caricatured treatment of the police officers involved in the investigation, even if we suspect that the portrait is strongly inspired by reality.
Lost Girls can also count on a sensed performance by Amy Ryan ( Gone Baby Gone, Birdman ). The actress is as credible in the excess of anger as in the unspeakable suffering caused by the disappearance of Shannan.
Gabriel Byrne ( Suspects de convenience, Le temps de aventure ), a policeman caught between his desire to solve the mystery and the political power seeking to suffocate him, is at the height of his usual talent.
We may know the main lines of these sordid murders – it is not forbidden to do a little research before seeing the film -, the director succeeds in taping us to the screen.
And the spectator here cannot help drawing a parallel with the Robert Pickton affair, arrested in British Columbia in 2002, which killed between 6 and 49 women, disappeared in indifference …