“Boston Strangler” depicts the fight against sexism through journalism 

David Dastmalchian, right, and wife Evelyn Leigh attend a special screening of “Boston Strangler” at the Museum of Modern Art on Tuesday, March 14, 2023, in New York. Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

True crime fanatics are always on the hunt for films based on a true story. “Boston Strangler” provides viewers with a film that stays true by keeping the story factual while depicting disturbing occurrences during the 1960s. The movie also displays the struggles that female journalists experienced during the time period. 

“Boston Strangler” directed by Matt Ruskin, creates a film where viewers feel like the gruesome events are unfolding in front of their own eyes. The film follows journalists Loretta McLaughlin (Keira Knightly) and Jean Cole (Carrie Coon) as they uncover the truth on who the Boston Strangler is based on a link left between all the victims. 

McLaughlin, a life reporter for the Record American, was given a story on reviewing a new toaster at the beginning of the film after the editor Jack MacLaine (Chris Cooper), denied her of working on the homicide cases. While she had different clippings from other stories all including a bow tied around the victim, he explained that he already had six different men working on the project. Viewers are then introduced to Cole, an investigative journalist who was attempting to write a story on patient abuse when her typewriter stops working, McLaughlin then offers her own typewriter as a replacement.  

McLaughlin tries to ask MacLaine again to let her work on the strangling homicides; he first refuses but ends up agreeing after McLaughlin says she will work on the cases during her own time. After composing her own story and talking to different sources, MacLaine gets an earful from Commissioner McNamara (Bill Camp). McNamara expressed that McLaughlin did not follow the proper code of covering a story by introducing herself as a reporter. Later, when talking to MacLaine, McLaughlin denies McNamara’s claim, saying she always introduced herself as a reporter when interviewing sources. 

Keira Knightley attends a special screening of “Boston Strangler” at the Museum of Modern Art on Tuesday, March 14, 2023, in New York. Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

After the scene of McNamara disapproving of McLaughlin being on the case, McLaughlin and Cole then become paired up to write future pieces on the Boston Strangler murders and their victims. While working together, the duo receives a letter that sets the tone for the rest of the movie.  

“Every day is an eternity, every night a horror. Nobody knows what a woman alone feels. No one knows fear as we know it,” one of the senders wrote to McLaughlin and Cole. 

Compared to other films the “Boston Strangler,” has a unique approach to creating a movie based on true crime. For example, the movie “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,” based on Ted Buddy and the series “Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story,” both films depict the gruesome murders from the killer’s point of view. While, the “Boston Strangler” does include the disturbing murders, it instead focuses on the two female reporters who are diligently working on uncovering who the killer is.   

The film displays the difficulties that McLaughlin and Cole had to face as female reporters. McLaughlin faced struggles in her marriage after the murders became frequent and her work life started to cut into her personal life. While her husband remained supportive, viewers can see the frustration and agitation he had towards McLauglin progress by continuously asking her to drop the story.  

McLaughlin not only noticed a strain on her marriage but when at work, she was told to drop the story multiple times due to the Boston police department disliking the stories they were writing.  

In real life, McLaughlin and Cole dealt with more sexism than what was portrayed; According to the Daily Mail, the two had threats delivered to their desks in the form of an envelope with nylon stockings inside. While that was one of the few challenges they faced from men, the two chose to ignore it since they simply just wanted to get their job done. Prior to the end credits, there is an informational epilogue where viewers can read what happened to those involved in the Boston Strangler case.  

The “Boston Strangler” is a movie that viewer discretion should be kept in mind due to a few disturbing scenes. This is a film that pays homage to McLaughlin and Cole who covered the case, along with the victims who they are seen working to provide justice for. A film on women fighting for justice for other women is definitely reason enough to watch this film. 

If you would like to learn more about McLaughlin and Cole’s work together on the case click here or if you would like to learn more about the Boston Strangler click here

Rating: 4.5/5 

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