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Film Review: In Entertaining “Blow the Man Down,” Furious Women Win the Day

Written by: Christopher Llewellyn Reed | March 19th, 2020

Film poster: “Blow the Man Down”

Blow the Man Down (Bridget Savage Cole/Danielle Krudy, 2019) 3 out of 4 stars.

An entertaining romp through mystery, misery and murder, with a little sordid sex thrown in for good measure, Blow the Man Down, from first-time feature directors Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy, plants the viewer firmly in a bleak coastal Maine town where not much happens … until everything does. Twentysomething sisters Mary Beth and Priscilla (Priss) Connolly have just buried their mother, only to discover that the debts she’s left behind will mean the loss of their house, no matter the fish business she also bequeathed. When restless Mary Beth goes out to drown her sorrows and picks exactly the wrong guy to spend time with (her apparent specialty), circumstances go quickly from bad to the worst, the resultant disaster a catalyst for more to come. Though men feature prominently, both in the plot and the recurring Greek chorus of fishermen – opening with a stirring rendition of the titular shanty – it’s the women who pull the strings, both behind and in front of the camera. It’s hardly joyful, but is its own kind of good fun.

Leading the macabre show are Sophie Lowe (Waiting for the Miracle to Come) and Morgan Saylor (White Girl), as Priss and Mary Beth, the one more responsible, the other a hot mess. Both are excellent, supported by a strong ensemble that includes Margo Martindale (Claudia on FX’s The Americans), Annette O’Toole (Women Who Kill), Gayle Rankin (Sheila the She-Wolf on Netflix’s GLOW) and June Squibb (Nebraska, still going amazingly strong at 90 years old!), among others. Though outwardly proper, if hardly prosperous, the town of Easter Cove hides a salacious secret that makes the once-established order of the place unravel after Mary Beth’s little mishap. It’s hard to outrun the past, though one can try. Perhaps it’s better to simply adapt or take what’s yours, rightfully or not.

Morgan Saylor, Sophie Lowe and Margo Martindale in BLOW THE MAN DOWN ©Amazon Studios

Martindale’s Enid – the owner of the Ocean View, a Bed and Breakfast that offers more than just beds – says it best when she tells Priss and Mary Beth, “A lotof people underestimate young women, which is why they can get away with a lot.” Maybe even murder, if it comes to that. Meanwhile, however, Enid has a business to run, though it’s one that now attracts negative attention, even if it once pumped much-needed cash into the town’s strapped economy. She used to have three young women in her employ, but one has vanished, leaving two, among whom Rankin’s Alexis figures most prominently, increasingly angry at the madam – excuse me, matriarch – who rules her world. Beware those young women “a lot of people underestimate,” indeed!

And so it goes in this twisted fable, buoyed along by the somber tunes of the male choir, until at the end the women finally take over. It was about time. They’re bad, they’re strong, and when they eventually figure out what they want, there’s no stopping them. As enjoyable as the enterprise may be, however, parts of it feel too contrived for their own good, people occasionally behaving in ways dictated by the construction of the screenplay rather than the principles of character. In those moments, we see more than just Easter Cove’s skeletons, but the frenzy of the writers, as well. When they, in other scenes, succeed in hiding their narrative machinations, the film floats masterfully above the grimy water. Blow the man down, for the Furies are unleashed, and it’s a beautiful thing.

Gayle Rankin in BLOW THE MAN DOWN ©Amazon Studios
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Christopher Llewellyn Reed is a film critic, filmmaker, and educator. A member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, he is Associate Editor and film critic at filmfestivaltoday.com; lead film critic at hammertonail.com, an online magazine devoted to independent cinema; the host of Dragon Digital Media’s award-winning "Reel Talk with Christopher Llewellyn Reed"; a film commentator for the "Roughly Speaking” podcast with Dan Rodricks at "The Baltimore Sun"; and the author of "Film Editing: Theory and Practice." In addition, he is one of three co-creators, along with Summre Garber of Slamdance and Bart Weiss of Dallas VideoFest, of "The Fog of Truth" (fogoftruth.com) – available on iTunes, SoundCloud and Stitcher – a podcast devoted to documentary cinema.

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