I love Lily Gladstone, so I am happy to report Lily Gladstone has joined a new thing. She will co-star with Riley Keough and Archie Panjabi in Under the Bridge, an adaptation of Rebecca Godfrey’s book of the same name about Reena Virk’s 1997 murder in British Columbia, Canada. This is one of those true crime cases that people still get tense about today, probably because no one motive ever emerged to explain why seven of Reena’s classmates beat and then murdered her (two were charged with her drowning death, Warren Paul Glowatski and Kelly Marie Ellard). 


Godfrey’s book traces the myriad motives, from so-called “girl violence”, to blaming the kids for imitating Los Angeles street gangs—this was HUGE in the 1990s, any bad thing a kid did was because of LA street gangs, no matter where that kid lived—to, as Godfrey posits, racial motivations.

Reena was Indo-Canadian, and her family had also converted to the Jehovah’s Witness faith, though in her area of BC, most of the Southeast Asian community was Sikh. The impression I have of the case is that racial motivations were largely dismissed, and everyone really wanted to pin it on disturbed kids negatively influenced by violence in the media, particularly those LA street gangs, which were implied by the media of being “glamorized” by hip hop and Black culture exploding in the mainstream. It cannot be overstated how badly much of white North/America reacted to Black culture becoming a major touchstone for youth culture in the 1990s, we’re still feeling those reverberations today. But it’s also a case that comes up in regards to restorative justice, as Virk’s parents, Suman and Manjit, went through a restorative process with one of Reena’s murderers, Warren Glowatski. 


Gladstone will play a police officer in Victoria, BC called Cam Bentland, who is the only woman of color on the force and is also queer. Despite believing in the justice system she serves, Cam knows its shortcomings and is forced to reckon with how the system fails people like her and Reena all the time. There is no question Under the Bridge will be tough to watch—the book is tough to read—but DAMN I am looking forward to Gladstone working with the likes of Riley Keough and Archie Panjabi on such rich thematic material. Reena Virk’s murder occurred 25 years ago, but it still resonates today (sadly) for the tangle of socio-political factors that surround the case, from racial motivations to restorative justice. There’s a lot to chew on here, and I’m glad Lily Gladstone is getting her bite, though between this and Killers of the Flower Moon, I’m starting to wish someone would cast her in a rom-com, too. Just put Jon Bernthal and Lily Gladstone in a bit of romantic fluff and let them play happy people for once!