Lost Girls: The harrowing true story behind the new Netflix film


On Friday, Netflix released a new true-crime drama Lost Girls, starring Amy Ryan as a grieving mother seeking justice for her murdered daughter.

The film premiered at Sundance Film Festival in January.

It's based on the tragic real-life story of a number of sex workers who were killed by an as-yet-unidentified serial killer in Long Island, New York.

Here’s everything you need to know about Netflix’s newest original film.

It’s based on a non-fiction crime book

Amy Ryan in Lost Girls (Netflix)
Amy Ryan in Lost Girls (Netflix)

Lost Girls is based on a book of the same name by journalist Robert Kolker, a former contributing editor at New York Magazine.

His 2013 book Lost Girls recounted the lives of five sex workers who were murdered by the “Long Island serial killer,” an unidentified person believed to have killed 10 to 16 people over a period of 20 years.

What does the book detail?

Kolker’s book looks at how the search for one missing sex worker, Shannon Gilbert, lead authorities to discover the bodies of four other women at Gilgo Beach, Long Island, in December 2010.

The remains were those of Maureen Brainard-Barnes, Melissa Barthélemy, Megan Waterman, and Amber Lynn Costello, all missing sex workers who had advertised on Craigslist.

Six more sets of human remains were discovered in March and April 2011, which police believe to predate the initial bodies discovered. In November 2011, police stated they believed all deaths to be the work of one killer.


Kolker’s book criticises the police force, who he believes did not take the victims seriously due to their profession, and looks at the media spotlight placed on the case and the stress that created for the victim’s families.

Gilbert’s remains were found in a marsh in December 2011, and police initially believed she had accidentally drowned after stumbling into the marshes.

However, an independent autopsy was later carried out by former New York chief medical examiner Michael Baden in 2016. He concluded "there is no evidence that she died of a natural disease, of a drug overdose or of drowning."

"There is insufficient information to determine a definite cause of death, but the autopsy findings are consistent with homicidal strangulation," he said.

Who stars in the film?

Amy Ryan and Thomasin McKenzie in Lost Girls (Netflix)
Amy Ryan and Thomasin McKenzie in Lost Girls (Netflix)

The film focuses on Gilbert’s mother Mari, played in Lost Girls by Oscar-nominated actress Amy Ryan, known for Gone Baby Gone, Birdman and Beautiful Boy.

Mari fought tirelessly to seek justice for Shannan, and challenged the initial finding that Shannan’s death was accidental.

Thomasin McKenzie (Jojo Rabbit) and Oona Laurence (The Beguiled) play Shannan’s sisters Sherre and Sarra.

Acclaimed documentary filmmaker Liz Garbus makes her narrative feature debut with Lost Girls. She has previously directed documentaries such as What Happened, Miss Simone?.

Lost Girls is available to stream on Netflix now.

Read more

Everything you need to know about Netflix documentary The Tiger King

John Boyega's production company agrees Netflix deal

The harrowing true story behind Netflix's Trials of Gabriel Fernandez