Is it just me, or is there something about “Blow the Man Down” – the new black comedy thriller film from Amazon Studios – that calls to mind classic 1990s Coen brothers movies? Written and directed by Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy, the film is set in a secluded Maine fishing village populated by stubborn, intractable personalities with a longstanding history of hiding skeletons in their closets.
At the center of the story are the Connolly sisters: Mary Beth, who is eager to cut all her connections to the small town and return to college; and Priscilla, who has taken over the family’s seafood business. Both face an uncertain future following the death of their mother, who has left them with no money, unpaid medical bills and a house that will soon be in foreclosure.
In the town of Easter Cove, fishing drives the economy. On the surface, the town’s veneer seems innocuous and charming enough. Beneath the façade, though, is a dodgy underpinning that has grown increasingly malignant. Having led a sheltered life, the Connolly sisters don’t recognize the scope of the town’s corruption until a twist of fate thrusts Mary Beth into a perilous situation.
When threatened, Mary Beth accidentally kills one of the town’s more disreputable characters. She then enlists her sister in covering up the mistake. In trying to cover their tracks, they discover pieces to a dangerous puzzle, including the body of a local prostitute, a bag containing $50,000 in cash and a shocking arrangement involving a bed-and-breakfast-turned-brothel.
In addition to being a murder mystery, “Blow the Man Down” is a coming-of-age story as well as a study of the passing of the torch, showing how the town’s old guard gradually stands down and allows the younger generation to take the reins.
The film features an outstanding cast, but three actors in particular do a magnificent job. Morgan Saylor plays Mary Beth and Sophie Lowe portrays Priscilla, the two sisters. Margo Martindale stars as Enid Nora Devlin, a town elder, proprietor of Easter Cove’s house of ill repute and embittered pariah. Enid is countered by the town’s surviving matriarchs – Doreen (Marceline Hugot), Gail (Annette O'Toole) and Susie (June Squibb) – who feel she has broken a long-established code of conduct. In “Blow the Man Down,” it is clearly the women who hold the balance of power in Easter Cove.
“Many of the characters were inspired by our moms, aunts, grandmothers, and matriarchs in our lives,” said Cole and Krudy in a directors’ statement. “Set in this small town environment, our story centers on two young women coming of age right after their mother’s death. Both sisters are navigating their relationship to their hometown from differing viewpoints, a struggle we relate to well. In our story, they both come to realize the women of the town and their mother’s friends lead much more complicated lives than what appears at surface value. We’re used to underestimating older women, in movies and in real life. But they know everything, they see everything. They are the town’s glue.”
It's not just that the women of “Blow the Man Down” are central to the plot – it’s that they are expertly crafted, with compelling backstories, complex ethical standards and thought-provoking personalities.
Punctuated by sea shanties, the film draws tension from the most mundane scenes as the sisters, their eyes filled with panic, try to guess who knows what. With its blackly comic tone, “Blow the Man Down” leaves a lasting impression as it scrapes away the small-town pretense to expose festering sins with Northeastern noir stylishness. This quirky, female-driven yarn is as fun as it is savage, and just a little bit subversive to boot.
“Blow the Man Down” debuted on Amazon Prime March 20.