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September 27th, 2023

boston strangler spotlight pageCourtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


True crime stories have always somewhat fascinated me and recently, filmmakers put to film one of the stranger true crime cases in history with the film “Boston Strangler.” The movie follows a pair of female reporters (played by Keira Knightley and Carrie Coon) as they connect the Boston Strangler killings and break the story for the Boston Record American. 

To start off with, the movie does a great job of creating a tense atmosphere and does it even in the opening scene when police find one of the Boston Strangler’s victims with the song “Nowhere to Hide” playing on the TV in the background. I found it absolutely chilling and was left to wonder “How will the movie go from THAT?!” Another style choice I really liked in the movie was how the killer’s face was never shown (which actually comes to make sense at the end of the film), and it adds another layer of tension. I also thought it a good choice to not actually show the murders themselves because (A) it showed respect to the victims and (B) it allows for some imagination on the viewers’ part – I felt like the movie did a good job capturing the overall terror of that time period pretty well, and I can’t even imagine just how terrified people were, especially women. 

Along with those style choices, I also thought it was good how the movie focused on the people who broke the story of the Boston Strangler instead of the crimes themselves, which has been the norm for a lot of true crime dramas in more recent times (*cough* Netflix’s “Dahmer” *cough*). Again, doing that shows respect to the victims themselves and also gives an insight into what actually went into the investigation and how everything came together. 

With the performances throughout the movie, I also liked how those came together. Keira Knightley is great in the lead role as Loretta McLaughlin and she is able to convey Loretta’s frustration perfectly throughout, not only at the beginning when she’s assigned a toaster review for the publication’s lifestyle section (which, by the way, how does one actually review a toaster?) and then throughout as she faces other obstacles in getting what she needs for her stories, particularly from her boss and the Boston Police Department. I also liked Carrie Coon as Loretta’s fellow reporter, Jean Cole, and I felt she definitely captured that world-weariness seen from someone who’s been in the same line of work for an extended period of time. They both work really well together throughout the movie and it reminds me of a mentor-mentee relationship since Jean shows Loretta a few things about crime coverage. I particularly liked the scene that takes place in the bar shortly after they’re paired for the story and how they shared their respective paths to getting into journalism. 

Overall, I also found the movie to be pretty balanced in a lot of ways. The Boston Police Department and other investigators aren’t shown in the best light for a lot of it (somewhat justifiably), but the movie also shows some of the frustration faced by the department in trying to solve the case and ultimately feeling like they’re getting nowhere because there’s almost nothing to go on. The journalism field as a whole is actually portrayed pretty well throughout the movie, and I found it a pretty accurate depiction of how some stories ultimately come together, and the movie also shows the back-and-forth arguments about whether or not to run with the story, which I’m sure did actually take quite a bit of soul-searching on the part of the editors at that time. I also felt the movie did a good job showcasing how many potential suspects there were instead of just focusing on one, and I didn’t entirely anticipate how they were all connected in the end. It’s certainly a departure from other similar movies where there’s definite sides taken, and I found it rather refreshing.

While there were a lot of aspects about the film I liked, there are a few quibbles I have with it. Something in particular that rather bugged me was how for the ENTIRE movie, Boston is all drab and cloudy and gray and overall just ... blah. I get how the idea was to portray how it was a dark period of Boston history and all of that, but it certainly isn’t subtle, and I couldn’t help thinking “So Boston just NEVER gets any sun – like, ever?” I also got annoyed at how with just about every other scene (or so it felt), someone just HAS to be seen lighting up a cigarette and smoking – I know smoking was pretty common back then and the health hazards weren’t as known, but if that hadn’t been portrayed in the movie, I definitely would have been okay with it. Also, after a certain point, it almost felt like the thought process was “They’re not doing much at the moment – QUICK, give them a cigarette!” just to fill the screen with something and again, it just became rather annoying to me. 

Overall, I did enjoy “Boston Strangler” and I would give it a solid “B” grade. There are several very creative style choices throughout the movie I enjoyed as far as creating the atmosphere, and the performances throughout are pretty good, especially from leading ladies Keira Knightley and Carrie Coon. I also enjoyed how there was actually some balance shown throughout, which is refreshing compared to similar movies. However, there were a few minor quibbles I had that could have easily been rectified and ultimately made the movie better. Overall, if you’re a fan of true crime stuff, “Boston Strangler” would be a good one to cue up and is available on Hulu.