Boston Strangler: the reason you’ve heard of him

Keira Knightley and Carrie Coon in Boston Strangler

Everyone has heard of the Boston Strangler. It’s a famous case. Notorious. But did you know it was two women reporters, Loretta McLaughlin and Jean Cole, who broke the story and connected the dots between a series of murders the police hadn’t tied together? This is their story.

Boston Strangler first introduces us to reporter Loretta McLaughlin (Keira Knightley). In 1963, women were given chores at the newspaper like writing about new toasters. Loretta, on her own, was collecting articles about strangled women and putting the serial murderer pieces together ahead of the cops.

Keira Knightley in Boston Strangler

She was married to James (Morgan Spector) and had three kids. She took her idea that the recent murders of older women in Boston were all done by the same man to her boss Jack Maclaine (Chris Cooper). He blew her off at first. She offered to get some proof on her own time.

Carrie Coon in Boston Strangler

When she came back with confirmed facts, Jack agreed to let her work on the story. He assigned the more experienced reporter Jean Cole (Carrie Coon) to work with her.

Jean had connections with people all over town. She could get herself and Loretta into places that Loretta didn’t know how to get into on her own, at least in the beginning.

The two of them spent months chasing down leads, getting statements and uncovering names. Loretta developed a working relationship with Det. Conley (Alessandro Nivola) and they shared information.

It eventually became clear that the Boston Police were bungling the case. They refused to share information with other cities where similar crimes matching the Strangler’s M.O. had happened. So Loretta and Jean wrote about the police incompetence, too.

When a man was arrested and charged with 13 murders, they investigated his confession and found problems with it. It’s unclear to this day if the right man, or the right men, were ever caught for the murders.

These two determined and courageous women managed to accomplish their work in spite of the blatant sexism in their workplace and all around them.

Boston Strangler was written and directed by Matt Ruskin. The movie was about the women. The murders weren’t shown or emphasized, the faces of the suspected killers weren’t emphasized. It was the women’s story. I enjoyed that about this movie. I’ve known about the Boston Strangler all my life, and I never knew how important these two reporters were in realizing what was happening and making the story famous.

There was one thing I didn’t love about the movie. In fact I hated it with a ferocious passion. That was the green filter used throughout the film. It washed out all the color. It made the rooms (and even the outdoors) so dim as to be hard to see. If that was supposed to be an artistic statement of some sort, all it did was annoy me. It looked terrible, like seeing everything through filmy camouflage.

In spite of the constant irritation over the lack of light, I thought the film was interesting and important. It told an inspiring story about two admirable women that had been unknown before. It’s streaming on Hulu.

2 thoughts on “Boston Strangler: the reason you’ve heard of him”

  1. Interestingly, the recent Murdaugh murders (in SC) were also researched by a female reporter who ALSO didn’t get much credit (Mandy Matney). Thanks for the review – I loathe the new trend of filming movies in darkness so will probably pass, but I’m moved to learn more about these two women.

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