Blow the Man Down, 2020.
Written and Directed by Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy.
Starring Morgan Saylor, Sophie Lowe, Margo Martindale, June Squibb, Annette O’Toole, Marceline Hugot, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Meredith Holzman, Skipp Sudduth, Owen Burke, Will Brittain, and Gayle Rankin.
Mary Beth and Priscilla Connolly attempt to cover up a gruesome run-in with a dangerous man. To conceal their crime, the sisters must go deep into the criminal underbelly of their hometown, uncovering the town’s darkest secrets.
On the night of her mother’s funeral, Mary Beth Connolly (Morgan Saylor) chooses to decompress by hitting up a local bar within the coastal fishing village of Maine she resides in. She begins to have a good time with a stranger named Gorski (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) who immediately spells danger to us but is desirable to Mary Beth. Nevertheless, he gets a bit too touchy and aggressive, causing Mary Beth to defend herself with a harpoon and brick, killing the man in the process. Regardless of if it’s justified or not, she panics and runs home to her infinitely more mature sister Priscilla (Sophie Lowe) for advice, but not before doing her best to clean up the crime scene and dispose of the body.
The sequence in discussion pretty much plays out like something out of a slasher flick, and with the simplistic premise of getting away with murder, one might get the impression that Blow the Man Down (the Coen brothers reminiscing writing and directorial debut from Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy) is an empowering feminist yarn on the inherent dangers of living life as a woman and fighting back when threatened, but it quickly and swiftly shifts gears to an unpredictable and unforeseen method of icky control. Most intriguingly, it’s a dynamic centered on the women who really run this town.
The remains of a body are found, but it’s not Gorski. Instead, it’s a murdered woman’s body uncovered who was working at Ocean View, a bed-and-breakfast establishment doubling as a brothel headed up by Enid (Margo Martindale, delivering the film’s finest performance as she wrestles with the legacy of her shady actions while trying to convince herself that it was all for a good cause and in the best interest of younger generations). There’s also a distasteful secret regarding the brothel that only further complicates the purpose for the establishment and the relatively carefree lives of the two sisters at the center of the narrative. Blow the Man Down is a brilliantly deceiving title, starting with a murder in self-defense only to transition into a reckoning for the choices and past of the elderly woman (there are additional supporting roles from June Squibb, Annette O’Toole, and Marceline Hugot that add to the dissension in the ranks following the death of Mama Connolly) as the seedy truth bubbles to the surface.
Despite the refreshing approach of placing women (mainly older ones at that) behind the mystery and in the limelight of the story, Blow the Man Down does start integrating one too many characters and subplots in a bid to make things more twisty than unnecessary. There are also intermittent shanty interludes that, while they are well performed and appropriately fit the setting of a fishing village, borders on pointless (the lyrics line up with major plot developments, and that’s where relevance begins and ends) and eye-rolling with the namesake song opening the film. A case can also be made that aside from the contrast of the sisters clearly being two very different people, they go through familiar character beats and don’t feel as defined or layered as Enid; Margo Martindale really takes this heavily Fargo inspired thriller (not just visually but also right down to the location-specific dialogue quirks) and raises the heat, especially as the truth begins closing in on her character.
On an unrelated but someone important note, with no mainstream theatrical releases for the foreseeable future (this is actually the first film I am reviewing after screening cancellation mania and consecutive film delays), you can’t really go wrong renting Blow the Man Down from Amazon Prime. For first-time filmmakers, it’s a worthwhile mystery with originality and impressive craftsmanship to boot (the dreary and cold photography matches the uninviting tone of a village with a dirty secret to hide). Come for the murder, stay for the expose on grannies covering up mistakes and their warped justifications for such actions. If you’ve ever seen and enjoyed a film from the Coens, give this a shot.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com