Based on the book of the same name by Robert Kolker, ‘Lost Girls’ follows a woman’s quest to find her daughter. The film paints the picture of a flawed justice system that failed the girls who were the victims of the Long Island serial killer. Rather than focusing on the mystery itself, it presents the story of a family who does not receive much help in their endeavour. The ending makes it all the more gut-wrenching. If you haven’t yet seen the film, head over to Netflix. SPOILERS AHEAD
When her daughter, Shannan, does not come home for a planned dinner, Mari Gilbert knows that something bad has happened. She files a report, but even when 2 days pass by, it comes to her knowledge that the cops aren’t looking for her. When the law won’t help her, she starts her own investigation, in the course of which, she comes to know a lot of things about her daughter, while the mystery surrounding her disappearance intensifies.
After Mari’s efforts to make the cops look into Dr Peter Hackett fail, the investigation goes cold for a while. One year later, she gets a call from Joe Scalise. He tells her that Hackett has packed up his things and would be leaving soon enough. If there is an opportunity that Mari will get to talk to him, it is this. Mari takes this as a confrontation, that the doctor will let some detail slip about the night her daughter went missing, which she could use to make a case against him. What she gets is the same old thing he has been repeating since the first time she talked to him face to face. He doesn’t even admit that he was the one who called her that morning.
Instead, he tries to make her feel guilty about the fact that she turned unwarranted attention and blame towards him. He had nothing to do with Shannan’s disappearance, and Mari was the one who made things difficult for him. He doesn’t say it outright, but Mari doesn’t need any subtext to read his thoughts. Another thing that becomes clear from the visit is that Hackett also has perverse inclinations. She doesn’t feel comfortable in his presence, and him patting her shoulders, even if as a compliment for her strength, sends chills through her bodies. He might not have killed her daughter, but he was involved in it one way or another.
Mari knows that if Hackett leaves before the marsh is searched, and if some detail comes out later that suggests that it really was him, they would never be able to catch him. So, this time, when she visits Dormer, she gives him an ultimatum, instead of pleading and prodding him into action, as she had been doing all this time. It is a now or never situation and she makes it very clear that if the police department fails to do its duty, then she should not be blamed for what she does next. The cops have already earned a bad reputation for their inability to crack the case, and Mari can make things worse for them.
If not due to Mari’s threat, then due to the call of his own conscience, Dormer decides to search for the bodies in the marsh. He is getting retired, so even if he ruffles some feathers on the way out, it wouldn’t really hurt his prospects. Moreover, at his own retirement party, he sees the girls who have been hired to dance around them. Perhaps it was the realisation that any of those girls could end up dead later, or the desire to do something of substance before bidding goodbye to his career. Whatever the real reason might have been, it works.
Mari discovers that Hackett’s marsh is being scoured. They find Shannan’s driver’s licence, and the next day, her body is found, too. Whether or not Hackett killed Shannan is not attended to. The film ends with Mari and her daughters going back home. This doesn’t mean that they have given up on the investigation. It doesn’t mean that Mari will stop pulling at the threads and stop pestering the cops to do something about it. The film ends on this note because it completes this particular arc of Mari’s story.
Throughout the film, Mari holds on to the faith that her daughter is still alive, somewhere. Even though we know that Shannan is dead, it is not the same for Mari. When everyone looks at it as a murder mystery, for her, even after one whole year and till the moment her daughter’s remains are found, it is a missing person’s case. The film had been about her hope to bring her daughter back home. It was always about finding her, and not her killer. And when she does find her, even if too late, the story comes to an end.
Read More: Lost Girls: Who Killed Shannan Gilbert?