After winning Best Screenplay (U.S.) at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival, the black comedy Blow the Man Down finally gets its wide release thanks to Amazon, which scooped up the distribution rights last May. The Downeast-set murder thriller plays very much like a low(er)-budget Seacoast version of Fargo, complete with dead bodies (a comparatively mild three by the time the credits roll), a ridiculous cover-up scheme, and a gaggle of whack-a-doo characters that could have come straight off the pages of a Carl Hiaasen novel.
The first-time writer-director team of Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy clearly have a love for the region and its people (Cole is originally from Beverly, Mass)—even going so far as to employ a Greek chorus of fishermen serenading us with shanties throughout. And though it can’t quite escape feeling like the cut-rate Indie it is, there’s still plenty of reason to believe Blow the Man Down is just the beginning for these filmmakers.
Morgan Saylor and Sophie Lowe lead the way as sisters Mary Beth and Priscilla Connolly, who, at the outset, are hosting their ma’s post-funeral reception. Pris is the mature and business-minded one, who ran the family fish shop during their mother’s illness and is more than content to stay in charming little Easter Cove. Impetuous and wanderlusty Mary Beth, meanwhile, is already resentful that she had to forgo her first year at UMaine to care for her mom and is now ready to fly the coop—particularly when she learns the bank is this close to foreclosing on it. It’s that mentality that leads her to the seedy local dive bah, where she meets a sketchy fella, who winds up meeting the business end of a harpoon when he gets more than a little handsy with her. Of course, what she saw in his trunk didn’t help matters.
Slowly we come to realize that quaint little Easter Cove ain’t quite that quaint after all. “Small town, Big secrets,” the film’s poster tells us, and how. From the trio of local blue-haired biddies (played to perfection by June Squibb, Annette O’Toole, and Marceline Hugot) who must be hiding something, to the scheming pariah Enid Devlin (a fabulous Margo Martindale) who is forthcoming to a fault about being the madam of the local brothel, there’s enough here to keep you guessing right up ’til the end… and probably for a while after. Heck, even the town’s newbie cop (Will Brittain) seems more than a little squirrely when talking about the “grody” body that just washed up on the beach.
There’s charm and humor (and darkness) a-plenty in Blow the Man Down, and Cole and Krudy turn in an admirable effort, particularly as it’s only their debut outing. There’s no question, though, that it could have used another round of polishing—the tension of not only the crimes and misdemeanors but the overall atmosphere of Easter Cove never really gets ramped up higher than a five or so, and there are definite moments where the film’s low budget is more cumbersome than quirky. It may not be wicked good, but it’s still a bit of a hum-dingah. Ayup.