Writer-director duo Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy's debut feature 'Blow the Man Down' is ambitious to a fault
A grisly murder, quickly followed by two more, rocks a sleepy fishing town in Maine. The trail of blood leads to two sisters, Priscilla and Mary Beth Connolly, who desperately begin sorting their finances after burying their mother. As it turns out, aside from being orphaned now, they are also quite broke. A heartbroken and furious Mary Beth heads to the local bar in her funeral clothes, and after a nightlong series of bizarre events, ends up killing a man with a harpoon. This single unfortunate murder sets in motion an astounding revelation of the town’s darkest secrets.
Written and directed by newcomers Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy, the Maine drama doesn’t dilly-dally in taking off our rose-tinted glasses, and deftly brings the crime-infested underbelly of the otherwise charming coastal town to light.
From widespread drug abuse to prostitution, peppered with the residents’ poverty-driven desperation and occasional use of dry humor, the writer-director duo paints a picturesque town with a carefully guarded history of lies, violence and deceptions; and the guardians, contrary to our expectations, are revealed to be not the hardened, burly fishermen, but the women left behind.
While men toiled away in the distant sea and drank themselves to death, the film reveals that the town matriarchs - played by veteran actors Margo Martindale (Justified), June Squibb (Nebraska), Annette O'Toole (It), and Marceline Hugot (The Leftovers) - have been operating behind the scenes and deciding the fate of the residents for decades. But now, their past sins are catching up to them. And the mayhem set in motion by the Connolly sisters is threatening to destroy the life’s work of the four women in charge.
In the heart of the town stands tall a brothel, operating in clear view, teeming with criminal activities and shady outsiders, gradually becoming a point of contention between the town matriarchs. Curiously enough, it was initially opened by them to ‘protect’ their own daughters from the dangers (rapey lurkers, violent predators and more) that a fishing town usually attracts. However, the film finds these women regretting their decision in old age after being brought face to face with the unanticipated consequences of the Connolly sisters’ blunder.
What sounds like a feminist utopia on paper, the filmmakers smartly expose as a sham. Despite women having power, we witness them doing essentially the men’s dirty work as they try in vain to beat the oppressively patriarchal world at its own game.
Evil seeps into even the most peaceful towns and no one is spared as we have learned from the Maine native Stephen King’s novels and the Coen brothers’ Fargo – two clear inspirations behind this seaside noir.
Young actors Sophie Lowe and Morgan Saylor, starring as the dumbfounded Connolly sisters, give convincing performances and manage to keep pace with Hollywood treasures Margo Martindale and June Squibb.
While making due use of all the fun genre trappings, the debut feature by co-writers Cole and Krudy, is nevertheless ambitious to a fault. As the latter half of the film often loses itself in its own musings, the execution leaves much to be desired, despite a solid cast, an engrossing build-up, and the filmmakers’ fresh, intriguing ideas that are worth going over.