Directors: Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy
Writers: Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy
Starring: Sophie Lowe, Morgan Saylor, June Squibb
Genre: Drama / Comedy
After an unfortunate run-in with a dangerous local man leads to his murder, Mary Beth (Saylor) and Priscilla Connolly (Lowe) attempt to conceal their crime. However, in doing so the two sisters find themselves involved in the criminal underbelly of their small fishing town, uncovering some of the town’s darkest secrets.
Blow the Man Down opens with the local fisherman singing a sea shanty with the same title as the film, and the only other film in recent memory that features sea shanties was 2019’s Fisherman’s Friends. While Fisherman’s Friends was an unashamedly feel-good crowd-pleaser, Blow the Man Down is a very, very different film, and the sea shanties is basically all that they have in common. It has been described by some as the femme-Fargo as it features murder and a mainly female cast in the bleak snow-filled landscapes of Maine, but as I regard Fargo as a masterpiece and the Coen’s best film (just) so I will refrain from making comparisons, as on its own terms Blow the Man Down is a delightful gem of a film that manages to combine drama, intrigue and jet black humour in what is an admittedly refreshing female-centric story.
The murder cover-up by the two sisters is just the tip of the iceberg (no pun intended – this time) as it reveals much darker secrets about their supposedly quiet fishing town and the matriarchal rule that goes on there. This provides a quite unique perspective from a cinematic point of view, as the powerful women of the town discuss the implications of living in a port – they basically have to open a brothel in order to satisfy the inevitable influx of sailors so that their actual daughters are left alone. This is certainly quite a dark and depressing point of view, but also a unique one. Most of the male characters are the fishermen who merely sing sea shanties that serve as slightly strange and unnerving introductions to the next scene in the narrative and in this town – it is the women that are very much in charge. Thankfully the men are not just limited to sexist stereotypes, as Will Brittain’s idealist young cop Justin Brennan is undoubtedly a good guy who is just trying to do his job, though this of course leads to issues for certain characters – both good and bad.
It is the sudden death of the Conolly sister’s mother that leads to the power struggle that reveals some very dark secrets within the town that then completely escalate and lead to various double crossings, and though the plot does sometimes tie itself up in unnecessary knots and over complicates things a little too much, it is all dealt with by effective understatement and jet black humour to make for an enjoyable and darkly comic film. Cole and Krudy do however make sure to keep exposition to a skilful minimum so that the audience is not only expected to fill in the blanks occasionally, but also the darker elements of the film’s plot are dealt with a fair level of unnerving subtlety, and it is this casual approach (both in terms of dialogue, camerawork and performances) that makes the film so refreshingly engaging. Likewise, because of the unique nature of the film it is often impossible to ever quite figure out exactly where the narrative may be going, and this certainly proves to make sure that until the very end Blow the Man Down remains genuinely intriguing and entertaining.
A darkly comic and immensely entertaining drama; Blow the Man Down overcomplicates things a little too much at times, but is overall a very original and unique film that is certainly not frightened to take its plot to some very dark places, and emerges all the better and more enjoyable for it.
At time of writing Blow the Man Down is available to stream on Amazon Prime