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edge staff writer


Maine-set ‘Blow the Man Down’ will blow you away

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Just because a town is small doesn’t mean it is lacking in shadows or secrets. With proximity comes familiarity … and familiarity breeds contempt.

That’s why small-town noir works so well – the trappings of the genre work beautifully even removed from sprawling urban landscapes. A ramshackle desert town, an isolated Midwestern farming community or a hardscrabble coastal fishing village – they’re all ripe for receiving the noir treatment.

So it is with “Blow the Man Down,” newly streaming on Amazon Prime Video. The movie – set in the fictional town of Easter Cove, Maine, and filmed largely on location within the state – marks the feature debut of the writing/directing team of Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy.

It’s the story of a small town and the murkiness that exists in the depths beneath the seemingly placid surface. The film explores the idea that in these small places, the divide between the person we present to the world and the person we actually are can be shockingly vast. There are plenty of secrets packed into the cracks; even the most upstanding of citizens may have unsettling skeletons in their closets. And when that veneer of respectability and gentility is cracked, true (and often unpleasant) natures are unleashed.

Priscilla (Sophie Lowe, “Waiting for the Miracle to Come”) and Mary Beth (Morgan Saylor, “Anywhere with You”) Connolly live in the small Maine fishing town of Easter Cove. Their mother has just passed away due to an illness, leaving the sisters at a loss. Priscilla has been holding down the family business – a fish market – while Mary Beth wants nothing more than to get out of town.

The sisters receive support of a sort from a group of older women who were close to their mom. These women – Susie Gallagher (June Squibb, “Toy Story 4”), Doreen Burke (Marceline Hugot, “Liberte: A Call to Spy”) and Gail Maguire (Annette O’Toole, “The Incoherents”) – are a salt-of-the-earth trio, unafraid to make their feelings known with regards to anything (and anyone) in town.

But there’s a dark side to Easter Cove. Specifically, the Oceanview Inn, an ostensible bed and breakfast run by Enid Nora Devlin (Margo Martindale, “The Kitchen”) that actually serves as a brothel that caters to the rough-and-tumble fishermen from the docks. The Oceanview’s true purpose is an open secret in the town; everyone has collectively decided to look the other way, even the town’s top cop Officer Colletti (Skipp Sudduth, “Beyond the Night”) – though Colletti’s protégé Justin Brennan (Will Brittain, “The Divorce Party”) has some misgivings.

The fates of all involved become entangled one fateful night, when a drunk Mary Beth winds up inadvertently discovering a terrible act committed by a guy she picked up at the bar named Gorski (Ebon Moss-Bachrach, TV’s “NOS4A2”); he’s Enid’s right-hand man and he may have done something reprehensible at her request.

Long story short, we wind up with two missing people, a bag full of cash and a whole lot of folks on both sides of the law who want to know what happened. And in the middle of it all, the Connolly sisters, trapped in the undertow of Easter Cove’s sinister riptide, struggling to simply keep their heads above water.

“Blow the Man Down” does a wonderful job of embodying the noir ethos; it’s packed to overflowing with characters drawn in varying shades of shady. The ties that bind are always particularly knotty in small towns; Easter Cove is no exception. These are generational dynamics, people who have known each other for years and whose families who have known each other for decades. It’s a place where keeping secrets requires them to be buried deep … or weighed down and tossed into the ocean depths. Evoking that vibe is a major key to this film’s success.

Cole and Krudy have done a phenomenal job in constructing this film. Not only have they found that balance of innocent and sinister, but they’ve built a taut and compelling narrative. The tension and thrills are legit, but they also find the moments to inject just the right amount of pitch-black humor – there are a couple of big laughs mixed in, allowing brief moments of release before immediately ramping things up again. There’s something wonderfully Coen brothers-esque about it all – high praise for a first feature, but praise well-earned.

The ensemble is outstanding. The work being done by Lowe and Saylor is just excellent; their sisterly energy is consistent and genuine, while each performer captures the essence of their half of the duo. Lowe is the self-possessed thinker, while Saylor is all bad girl id; they’re great together, bearing the narrative between them with ease, while each of them also shines in individual moments.

Oh, and the supporting cast? Good lord. I’m not sure you could put together a more talented collection of character actresses of a certain age. Squibb, O’Toole and Hugot are great together, finding ways to convert and subvert the standard notion of the neighborhood busybody; individually or as a unit, they’re a delight. And Martindale is flat-out incredible, turning from matronly to menacing and back again in a blink – and she makes it look effortless. It is an amazing performance.

(Cole and Krudy also make use of an inspired narrative device. The film opens with a group of fishermen – including longtime Theatre at Monmouth performer Mark Cartier – singing a sea shanty. Said shanties return periodically throughout, creating an engaging and powerful leitmotif. The group serves as a Greek chorus of sorts, marking the narrative progression. It’s a bold, unique and extremely effective choice.)

“Blow the Man Down” is an exceptional piece of work. Crafting this sort of film is no mean feat – small town noir is extremely difficult to nail – but these filmmakers have done it. With a collection of strong performances and a committed embrace of the setting, it’s a movie well worth watching.

[5 out of 5]

Last modified on Tuesday, 24 March 2020 19:28


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