Arts movie review

Murder, prostitutes, and fishing

Two sisters stumble upon the seedy underbelly of their Maine hometown in this clever local tale

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Sophie Lowe stars as Priscilla Connolly in the recent black comedy thriller ‘Blow the Man Down’.
Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Blow the Man Down
Directed by Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy
Screenplay by Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy
Starring Morgan Saylor, Sophie Lowe, Margo Martindale, June Squibb, Annette O’Toole
Rated R
Now Streaming on Amazon Prime

At the beginning of Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy’s Blow the Man Down, the excitable Mary Beth (Morgan Saylor) wants to escape her little Maine fishing village of Easter Cove, while her elder, ever-stressed sister Priscilla (Sophie Lowe) hopes to continue working at their fish market shop and pay off the debt their recently deceased mother left behind. Put off by news of the debt at their mother’s funeral, impulsive Mary Beth hits up a bar and goes home with the unsettlingly sleazy Gorski (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), but tries to get away upon finding blood and weapons in his car. After a skirmish involving a harpoon and a brick, Gorski ends up dead, and Priscilla must decide whether to cover up the crime to protect her sister. When the girls find a bag of money in Gorski’s shack, it seems they’ve found their saving grace, though unbeknownst to them, they have set off a chain of events that may upturn the seedy underbelly of Easter Cove and bring to light the town’s old secrets.

The film is a display of fine acting and New England accents across the board, particularly from the town's seemingly innocent but fierce matriarchs, the trio of Susie, Gail, and Doreen (June Squibb, Annette O’Toole, and Marceline Hugot). Determined to keep their Irish Catholic port safe and sound, the women protect their blissfully unaware or seabound husbands and grandsons and bury dark deals in order to safeguard their daughters. The charming officer Justin Brennan (Will Brittain) comes close to blowing the case wide open, using his inquisitive nature and townie connections to uncover shady deals and spot the cracks in Mary Beth and Priscilla’s cover-up. But it’s Enid (played to perfection by Margo Martindale), the madame of Easter Cove’s Bed and Breakfast (and silently acknowledged brothel), who threatens to steal the show. As elegant as she is frightening, Enid is a tight-rope walker slowly losing balance, traversing a fine line between motherly affection and veiled threat.

The music and visuals add to the textured New England that writer-directors Cole and Krudy so deftly depict with their script and actors. The score by Brian McOmber and Jordan Dykstra is unsettling and beautifully off-beat, one of gruff strings and percussion that resemble the drop of crab cages and rope on the docks. Bookending each act of the story are sea shanties hollered by a Greek chorus of the town’s fishermen, gone to sea at the beginning of the film. They are led in a burly harmony by folk singer David Coffin playing an in-movie, singing sea dog, further playing up the local stylings with a haunting atmosphere. The photography by Todd Banhazi is stark, frigid, and unflattering, yet with a tangible grain. The coastal Maine town is populated by pale characters and snow-caked surroundings, and disrupted by bursts of colors, like the reds of the Connoly girls’ hair, the oranges of fishermens’ coveralls, and the blues of chilled skin and deep, salty seas.

Simultaneously funny and affecting, Blow the Man Down is a chilly thriller with a warm heart about underestimating the power of domestic women, the danger of lustful men brushed off by society, and the returns on deals made with the devil. Curl up with a blanket in these bitter pandemic times and enjoy Cole and Krudy’s timely New England tale. With humor, tension, and social commentary, this feature bodes well for the future of this creative duo.