Liz Garbus must have seen “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” before making “Lost Girls.” The inspiration is written in every corner of it. But what makes a film great is not the tragedy that takes place within, nor is it the inspirations the director takes from.
Based on the true story of one of the biggest unsolved murders of the decade, “Lost Girls” is the inevitable biproduct of the successes of “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and films like it. Both have a mother with a cold exterior hunts down those responsible for the disappearance of her daughter. Both films scrutinize a broken and biased modern police infrastructure. Both are disturbing in their discussion of violence against women. So why does “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” achieve astounding levels of drama while “Lost Girls” is a bleak, hollow trudge?
The answer lies in the writing. In “Lost Girls” we are given little in the way of personification, characterization or establishment from the beginning. We follow Mari Gilbert (Amy Ryan) from the start as she struggles to get more hours at work, earn her teenage daughters (Thomasin McKenzie) respect, and find a place in the world for herself.
But the film never digs into these problems. It is so concerned with bringing up legitimate modern feminist issues, by the time it establishes one of Gilbert’s troubles, it moves on. The film sets itself up so quickly if one were to blink, the plot would have already started.
Gilbert’s journey in the film is that of any movie character would go on. One of revenge and conflict. But the films soulless nature is because Gilbert doesn’t learn anything from her journey, or change as a person. She assembles a crew of other women whose daughters who have been murdered and by the end of the film, barely anything changes them
Unfortunately “Lost Girls” ends up being an hour and half of unimpressive murder mystery storytelling. What could have been an unfiltered adaptation of a true, complex story ends up being an aimless, uninspired waste of source material.