Film Review: “Blow the Man Down”
Murder isn’t the only secret in a tiny fishing village in coastal Maine, where two sisters realize just how messy a cover-up can get.
In the sleepy fishing village of Easter Cove, the women of the town are even saltier than the Cod. In fact, they pretty much run the place in the mischievous little black comedy/thriller, Blow the Man Down. We meet the Connolly sisters, Mary Beth and Priscilla, on the day of their mother’s funeral as her three oldest friends (played by venerable actresses June Squibb, Annette O’Toole and Marceline Hugot) express their heartfelt tributes to the deceased. But what the ladies let slip is the unfortunate news that the Connolly family fish store has fallen on hard times and the girls are about to lose their home and their livelihood. The younger sister, Mary Beth (played with a brooding sullenness by Homeland co-star Morgan Saylor) doesn’t take it well, and storms out into the night, leaving her mild-mannered older sister, Priscilla to clean up the mess left behind by the mourners. Priscilla (in a quiet and firmly present performance by Aussie actor/singer/songwriter Sophie Lowe) has no intention — unlike her younger sister — of ever leaving Easter Cove so when Mary Beth returns home late that night with an even bigger mess to clean up, Priscilla gets right down to business.
The following comically gruesome sequence, replete with a different sort of blood and guts than found in a fish store, has the Connolly girls do their best to cover up a brutal scene, given their lack of experience and the limited tools at their disposal. But like a hole in a fishing net, the dirty secrets and illicit histories of the town start slipping out, and they all seem to swirl around the infamous Oceanview brothel, run by Enid Devlin (played with ruthless charm by Margo Martindale). The connections between Enid, the three ladies, and the late Mary Margaret Connolly go way back, to a time when tough women had to make morally questionable decisions in order to salvage theirs and their daughters’ futures. Now, in the midst of widening cover-ups, extortion and murder, how will the Connolly girls navigate their way against a headwind of danger in dark and murky waters?
The writing/directing team of Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy have crafted a New England Noir in the tradition of the Coen Brothers, with a nod to their masterwork, Fargo (this film even has an oversize statue of a fisherman on the town’s main road, like the statue of Paul Bunyan that was actually built specifically for the setting of Brainerd MN). From the very start of Blow the Man Down, the mood is set in a blackly comic style, from the quirky musical score to the sea shanty musical numbers. Indeed, at certain plot intervals there are both contemporary and historic fisherman singing age old seaman ditties, in an actual wink to the camera and the audience. As if to say, don’t take this too seriously, which of course is a clever Coen-esque counterpoint to the very dark and ugly underbelly in the otherwise sleepy village of Easter Cove. The question remains, however, even after cutting the head off a rotting fish, can you ever get the smell off your hands?
Blow the Man Down is presently streaming on Amazon Prime.
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