The Lost Girls drew inspiration from the classic tale of Peter Pan.
Steven Spielberg’s ‘Hook’ might give you a nice dose of Peter Pan-related nostalgia, or perhaps you had the misfortune of sitting through Joe Wright’s ‘Pan’ in 2015 – regardless, there’s no shortage of works inspired by the classic Pan character. Adding to that list, quite unsurprisingly, Disney is releasing a live-action adaptation of their classic animated movie, ‘ Peter Pan and Wendy’, coming to Disney+ later this year. While Disney will ultimately get most of the attention, a smaller independent art-house film is being released on June 17 in select theaters and on VOD titled ‘The Lost Girls.’
‘The Lost Girls’ is written and directed by Livia De Paolis. It is based on the 2003 young adult novel of the same name by Laurie Fox. ‘The Lost Girls’ has minimal appearances of Pan himself and instead chooses to focus on four generations of Darling women. The lead is Wendy, the adult version of which is played by Livia De Paolis herself. This version of Wendy is actually the granddaughter of the original Wendy Darling from the classic tales we know. Unfortunately, Wendy’s grandmother (Vanessa Redgrave) has spent the latter portion of her life in a psychiatric ward and her mother, Jane, disappeared not long after giving birth to Wendy. This leaves Wendy to be raised in New York City by her single father, Clayton (Julian Ovenden).
There’s a bit of exposition before you understand who’s who in the film.
Still, a few key things are easy to understand: the women of this family are visited by Peter Pan (Louis Partridge) in the middle of the night in their early teenage years. Their respective journeys to Neverland are hinted at rather than shown in full. They then spend the majority of their adult lives pining after Pan and struggling with reality, which manages to cause some issues in their personal lives. Then there’s Hook, portrayed by Iain Glen (better known as Ser Jorah Mormont to fans of HBO’s Game of Thrones), who malevolently plagues the women through their journey into adulthood.
When it comes to the performances, there are a few who stuck out: Emily Carey and Iain Glen. Carey plays the teenage version of Wendy and is just delightful, despite her small amount of screen time (and rough hairstyle). I’m pleased to see Carey has been cast in HBO’s Game of Thrones prequel, ‘House of the Dragon,’ so we look forward to seeing more of this young actress soon. Glen’s performance as Hook is an odd one – he brings a bit of extra gravitas to the screen as a seasoned Scottish actor, yet Hook’s role in the stories of these women is a bit hard to understand.
Wendy’s first encounter with Hook sees him try to kiss her against her will – but is this metaphor for something larger and more sinister? The film leaves it to you to decide. Hook continues to show up at inopportune moments, but it seems these encounters are mostly in Wendy’s head. Glen is an interesting actor to cast here – you’re drawn to him in some ways, especially if you’re a fan of his previous work. But his appearances are so randomly placed that it’s hard to grasp his true purpose.
The biggest problem with The Lost Girls is De Paolis herself.
Her filmmaking and writing are competent enough, but the decision to insert herself into the lead role as the adult Wendy may have been a bit shortsighted. De Paolis has gone on record to state that the book on which this film is based is one of her favorites, so I can understand the desire to place herself in the middle of the story since this is such an auteur-driven film.
However, her Italian accent manages to wander into her performance and becomes distracting, especially since we have seen younger versions of her character who have no accent at all. I don’t want to harp on the accent too much, but the acting isn’t quite good enough to justify it. There are some decent enough performances otherwise that show De Paolis may be best suited to stay behind the camera and hone her craft. There is promise here from a filmmaking standpoint.
I give The Lost Girls 1.5 out of 5 stars. If you plan to see this film hoping for a fantasy-driven Peter Pan spectacle, this isn’t the film for you. But if you want to see an art-house story based on trauma, suppression, and motherhood, this is likely more up your alley. Some rough performances line a story that is at times hard to follow, but there are some definite signs of a potentially solid filmmaker at the foundation. It will be in select theaters and on VOD on June 17, 2022.