'The Long Island Serial Killer: A Mother's Hunt for Justice' Review: Loss, guilt and grief make Lifetime's film a must watch

Kim Delaney excels in her role as a helpless mother trying to save her daughter in the compelling Lifetime movie

                            'The Long Island Serial Killer: A Mother's Hunt for Justice' Review: Loss, guilt and grief make Lifetime's film a must watch
A still from 'The Long Island Serial Killer: A Mother's Hunt for Justice' (Lifetime)

A lot has been said and written about the Long Island Killer and how he killed women, mostly prostitutes, for unknown reasons. It is one of the most most-well-documented cases in the history of the United States and still continues to be a huge mystery. To untangle the mystery behind what is probably one of the most notorious killers of all time, Lifetime has delivered an engaging crime thriller titled ‘The Long Island Serial Killer: A Mother’s Hunt for Justice’.

On the outside, the film has nothing different than what has been shown before in other projects based on the killings that shocked the entire nation. However, one thing that makes this movie worth a watch is how it outlines a mother’s journey to find her missing daughter and the battle she goes through within the system to get justice for her daughter.


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Mari Gilbert (Kim Delaney) has a troubled relationship with her daughters Shannan (Katherine Isabelle) and Sarra (Jessica McLeod). Shannan always lived in foster care while Sarra was not treated right by her mother’s boyfriend. The 24-year-old Shannan worked as an escort and went to the Oak Beach area of Long Island to have a meeting with one of the clients and this is when everything changed.

Two days later, Mari gets a phone call from an unknown number and instantly knows that something is not right. She manages to file a report on her daughter missing, but initially, the police don’t find anything. Now, if you have studied the Long Island Killer case, then you would know that the disappearance of Shannan led to something even more bizarre. Police start to discover the remains of women who were buried years ago after being killed by an unidentified man in Long Island.

Kim Delaney as Mari Gilbert and Katherine Isabelle as Shannan Gilbert (Lifetime)

The movie tells the story of every single woman who was killed and linked to the case. Whether it was Maureen Brainard-Barnes or Amber Lynn Costello, the movie touches all the victims and their families with a good amount of time. After seeing that the police are not taking her daughter’s disappearance seriously, Mari hires private investigator Herc Zinneman (Eugene Clark), an ex-cop, to tackle the case.

The case gets uglier when law enforcement authorities continue to find more and more remains in the area. However, none of them belonged to Shannan and that made Mari believed that she is still alive. However, her hopes were shattered when Shannan’s body is found in the same Gilgo Beach area.

Apart from the killings, the film explores a far more important angle – corruption in the police department. The case was never taken seriously by the officials and that’s why the families of all the victims never got the justice they deserved. Some families have had no closure as the killer of almost 17 women has not been identified until now.

The narrative of the movie is commendable and also tells an important story about sudden loss, guilt and grief. The film is far from perfect but Delaney’s portrayal of a helpless mother trying to find justice for her daughter makes the movie a compelling watch.

From the moment she arrives on the screen, you know something special is about to come from her and she delivers on that promise. Her portrayal of a mother who outpaces the police to get all the answers is a treat to watch and should be considered one of her best performances.

Clark as Herc is amazing and does well to support Mari in the moments when she needs someone. However, McLeod’s portrayal of Sarra is literally un-nerving. In some scenes, she even outshines Delaney by showing her acting skills.

Eugene Clark as Herc Zinneman (Lifetime)

However, there are many things that still go unanswered in the movie. Why did Shannan run away from the client’s home? Why did her client say that she started behaving crazy? And why did she say “they are trying to kill me” when she called 911 while running from her client’s house? Yes, it might not be important for some people to know the answers but these are some questions that make you feel that something is missing.

At a runtime of 86 minutes, ‘The Long Island Serial Killer: A Mother’s Hunt for Justice’ might not be an ideal watch for many, but if you want to see a movie about a real-life event that is led by a strong lead performance and then you might want to take a look at it.

The 400th original movie from Lifetime, which is a part of the ‘Ripped from the Headlines’ franchise, will exclusively premiere on Saturday, February 20, at 8 pm ET. 

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