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'Lost Girls' Should Make Us Uncomfortable

Right now, HBO is in the middle of a six-part series from documentary filmmaker Liz Garbus called "I’ll Be Gone In The Dark," based on the late Michelle McNamara’s attempts to identify the Golden State Killer. I can’t review that for you, because, wouldn’t you know it, HBO forgot to send me a screener.


But over the weekend I was surprised to learn that back in March a movie from Garbus debuted on Netflix that totally slipped by me, and would have served as sort of a warm-up for this new series.

It’s called Lost Girls, and though it’s not a documentary, it is based on the real-life, and so far unsolved, Long Island Serial Killer murders.


Lost Girls stars Amy Ryan in a powerful performance as a mother searching for her missing daughter, which eventually leads to bodies and the acknowledgment of the killer’s existence. That Ryan is frustrated at nearly every turn by a general lack of police interest is distressingly unsurprising, but the reasons for that lack of interest reveal insidious truths — there are quiet hints the killer may have police connections, or that his wealth and privilege may be protecting him. Either way, the rot runs deep. And, even more than that, the victims were all sex workers, and it’s nauseatingly obvious their lives have no value to anyone but their families.


The movie may not be a documentary, but Garbus adapts a contemporary documentary style to it — she finds unusual ways to shoot each scene, sometimes a necessity for documentaries. The camera is put in strange places, extremely shallow focus attracts our attention, and it all adds up to make for an appropriately uncomfortable experience.


And Lost Girls is something that should make us uncomfortable. Not only because of the murders, but because of what it says about us. We need to confront the fact that we see some lives as disposable, our power structures allows for obscene abuses, and we all bear the blame.

Fletcher Powell has worked at KMUW since 2009 as a producer, reporter, and host. He's been the host of All Things Considered since 2012 and KMUW's movie critic since 2016. Fletcher is a member of the Critics Choice Association.