Moments after finishing this film, I wouldn’t have been the slightest bit surprised if the ending credits read: “Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen.” In reality, Blow the Man Down showcases the talents of a different directing duo, Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy. In their film debut, the pair introduces viewers to the secrets lurking beneath the serene facade of a wintry New England town. After premiering at Tribeca in April 2019, the film was bought by Amazon Studios and is available for streaming on Prime Video.
Set in the fictional town of Easter Cove, Maine, the film follows two sisters, Pris and Mary Beth Connolly (Sophie Lowe and Morgan Saylor, respectively), who are left with a family-owned fish market and little money after the unfortunate death of their mother, Mary Margaret Connolly.
Both sisters are complete opposites. Pris is grounded, committed to working at the fish market and staying in town, while Mary Beth, sometimes with a drink in her hand, dreams of leaving the “dump,” as she calls the town, and attending UMaine.
Following a disagreement between the sisters at their mother’s funeral reception, Mary Beth leaves early to head to the local bar. There, she meets a menacing character named Gorski (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), and we find out he works for Enid Devlin (Margo Martindale), the owner of a busy bed and breakfast and former business partner of the girls’ mother.
Although we’re only about 10 minutes in, the plot gets fishy here, twisting and turning to the point where disclosing any further narrative points may spoil the compelling, noir-like territory that lies ahead. In a compact 91 minutes, Blow The Man Down makes the most out of its screen time. It cuts the fat and places layered characters in complex situations, rewarding audience members who pay close attention to the rich story, which is full of surprises.
For someone who attends Boston College, the film is inherently local. Actually, it’s about as New England as a movie can get. The women own a fish shop, their late mother’s name is Mary Margaret, and the film begins and ends with bearded fishermen singing various sea shanties. As previously mentioned, there is a Coen-esque quality to the film, as its textured production design, costumes, and detailed cinematography put the audience in a place it can, at the very least, understand. The story depends on the local feel generated by all of these elements to convince the audience of what is going on. Due to the town’s small size, the central characters are all connected, whether it be by blood or by business. Just like local gossip, their stories interweave.
Writers and directors Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy craft a tight screenplay, coupling the intricate plot with strong dialogue and witty banter between characters. Martindale gets the juiciest parts of the script, spitting insults and observations as if she’s Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network. Simply put, Cole and Krudy write characters who are true Mainers, molded by the surrounding environment and adapting to the ever-changing events in town. By the final shot of the film, every loose end is eventually tied up.
Propelled by an impressive script, the performances are strong as well. Martindale revels in the dialogue, Saylor channels the emotions of her character’s desire to leave Easter Cove, and Lowe reveals her character’s innermost thoughts through her expressive face.
Cole and Krudy have directed a distinctly feminist film, writing several complex female characters who have relatable thoughts and desires. This is an original story that is told with the female perspective in mind, taking inspiration from past cinema and incorporating it into a film that shows independent women attempting to make the best decisions for themselves and their families. Blow the Man Down is assembled cleverly, allowing for an enjoyable and rewarding viewing experience, and what so far seems to be the strongest film of 2020.
Featured Image by Amazon Studios