Behind every quaint, little small town lies a big, dark secret. The modest fishing village of Easter Cove, Maine is no exception. When two young, grieving sisters have a run-in with a dangerous, shady outsider (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), the town’s dirty little secret is threatened to come to light. While trying to conceal their crime and keep their heads and the business their mother left them above water, Mary Beth and Priscilla Connolly are thrust into the criminal underbelly of the rocky coastal town.
When the girls’ mother, Mary Margaret Connolly passed, the sisters were left to face an uncertain future. The sisters are at odds when older sister Priscilla (Sophia Lowe) steps in to take over the responsibilities of their mother’s failing business and keep the family together, while younger, more free-spirited Mary Beth (Morgan Saylor) yearns for a new life outside of the confines of boring, dreary Easter Cove.
Across town, bed-and-breakfast-turned-brothel owner Enid Devlin (Margo Martindale) is facing some problems of her own as $50,000 has been stolen and one of her girls has gone missing. To control the situation, she puts her “business manager”/muscle, Gorski on the case which puts him on a collision course with the Connolly sisters leading to the unraveling of the small town. To make matters worse, the three matriarchs, Doreen, Gail and Susie (Marceline Hugot, Annette O’Toole and June Squibb) have grown weary of Enid’s shady operation and intercede, ultimately deciding the fates of Enid and the Connolly sisters.
In a sleepy, little town where everyone knows everyone, lives and fates seem like one tangled web. “Blow the Man Down” does a great job of conveying that point while keeping viewers on their toes in this layered seaside thriller. It’s hard to know who knows what — or even who — did what and that’s what makes this a good watch. As in most cases, there are a few who know everything and do their best to keep certain things quiet and swept under the rugs with the help of local law enforcement, giving the film somewhat of a mafia underworld type vibe (but portrayed through a female lens). When the body of a young woman washes up on the rocks, a young rookie cop, while pursuing an innocent crush on Priscilla and just earnestly doing his job, begins to feel that something just isn’t right.
“Blow the Man Down” uses unconventional elements from the beginning like the opening sequence where scruffy fishermen sing a sea shanty song to sets up the film and establishes what life in Easter Cove is like. This evokes the oral history tradition of small, seaside fishing towns like Easter Cove and pays homage to that tradition. The filmmakers (Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy) do an excellent job of taking an element of these fishing towns that is usually faded in the background, the women, and putting them at the core of the story and town. The women of Easter Cove run the show and the men in their lives are relegated to the corners and background, with the exception of young Officer Justin, who is still mainly on the periphery of the core circle. Even seasoned Officer Coletti takes his cues from the matriarchs of the village. The film takes the “town busybody” trope and turns it on its head with Doreen, Gail and Susie. The three older ladies are not just meddling gossips, but are really keeping this town afloat and running smoothly while trying to keep everyone in their lanes and flying under the radar (just like a good mafia boss). When things begin to fall apart, they are the ones who hold everyone together.
Composers Jordan Dykstra and Brian McOmber use ominous, upbeat yet mysterious music to set the scene. Directors Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy use atmosphere and tone to perfection. The whole film feels cold, dark and foggy, just like the town of Easter Cove. There is a kind of “Cape Fear” type feel to it, in looks and feel.
On top of that, the cast is stellar and really brings this sea town drama to life. The characters, at least the women, are complex and layered and they do a great job of conveying the risks and big stakes at play in a town where they are often one-dimensional characters in other films. With a mix of seasoned character actors (Squibb, O’Toole and Martindale) and the younger female leads (Saylor, Lowe and Gayle Rankin), the performances are nuanced, emotional and gritty. The viewer can easily connect with the characters because they are real. This is not your classic Hollywood fare with a happy, fairy tale ending. This is real life, its rough and sometimes not pretty but tomorrow will come and life goes on.
Morgan Saylor (“White Girl”) continues to give gritty, raw and emotional performances of flawed characters and really helps carry this film. Her performance, along with Gayle Rankin’s does not get overshadowed by the heavyweights in this film. You feel every emotion they feel. Martindale shines as usual as a “tough old broad,” holding her own in a typically male space, but who in the end plays out more complex yet vulnerable than originally imagined. June Squibb is always a pleasure to watch on the screen, while Will Brittain‘s young officer’s innocence and commitment to his job is endearing and leaves you rooting for him to solve the case. Moss-Bachrach plays a creepy slime bag so well. Add all of these characters and performances together and you’ve got one good and savory fish stew.
Coming in at a scant hour and a half, the ending seems just a little rushed, but still rewarding. With a fresh and original storyline, “Blow the Man Down” is a solid first screenplay from the filmmakers and makes for a great first go at it.