‘Lost Girls’: How Accurate Is the Netflix Series to the Real-Life Unsolved Case?

Everyone is staying inside a little more these days, and whether it is reading a favorite book or catching up with the latest in entertainment, there are certain advantages to social distancing. Netflix is enjoying the benefits of all the additional views and has released several hugely popular new shows.

While there are a lot of memes being made about the new docu-series Tiger King, there is a movie that is capturing the imagination of viewers everywhere and earning acclaim for the incredible acting. Lost Girls is an intense, riveting look at a crime that captivated the nation — and it has fans wondering just how true to life the film actually is. 

What is ‘Lost Girls’ about?

Lost Girls is based on a book written in 2013, which was in turn based on an investigation into the disappearance of a young actress and escort named Shannan Gilbert.

Shannan vanished in 2010, but not before making a frantic 911 call, where she could be heard saying “they’re trying to kill me.” As the police investigated Gilbert’s disappearance, they ultimately uncovered the bodies of several other young women, leading them to try and pin the crimes on a notorious serial killer who was active in the Long Island area at the time.

Lost Girls follows the story of Mari Gilbert, Shannan’s mother, and her journey to find the truth behind her daughter’s disappearance. Although the police, as well as the community at large, seem intent on marginalizing Shannan due to the fact that she was a sex worker, Mari Gilbert worked hard to ensure that the story never vanished from the public eye.

Although the identity of the man who murdered the young women had never been discovered, Shannan Gilbert’s body was eventually discovered — nearly two years after her initial disappearance. 

Fans are loving ‘Lost Girls’

Amy Ryan
Amy Ryan | Rich Polk/Getty Images for IMDb

It’s no mystery that audiences all over the world love true crime, and Lost Girls is certainly an excellent addition to the genre. With top-notch acting by Amy Ryan and Gabriel Byrne, the movie not only portrays the case from Mari Gilbert’s point of view but doesn’t shy away from the tough subject matter surrounding Shannan’s line of work. 

Critics are also loving Lost Girls, and have praised Ryan’s performance as Mari Gilbert across the board. In fact, Roger Ebert’s film site calls her work in Lost Girls some of the best of her career and calls the film “emotional examination of one of the modern era’s most famous unsolved cases.”

Still, as popular as the film has become over the past several weeks, it seems as though Lost Girls isn’t quite as true-to-life as it would seem at first glance. 

Is ‘Lost Girls’ accurate as to what really happened?

In Lost Girls, Mari Gilbert is partially responsible for police investigators following through on many leads. In fact, the film indirectly credits her with keeping the investigation at the forefront of their thoughts and doesn’t allow them to disparage Shannan Gilbert or any of her fellow industry peers.

Still, according to a recent report, the push for police to work on the case wasn’t exclusively due to Mari’s involvement but was rather a joint effort between all the families of the missing women. Some others involved with the case stated Mari’s wasn’t a heroic figure, but someone who had a very difficult life herself. 

The movie also plays fast and loose with some character’s ages. According to the report, Gilbert’s remaining daughters are portrayed as quite a bit younger in Lost Girls than their actual ages at the time of the crime.

In spite of the inaccuracies, sources did state that the overall themes of the film are true to life and that the movie accurately portrays the “impact” of what all the families went through.