Premise: 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..
Interspersed throughout Blow the Man Down are various salty sea shanties – some familiar, such as the one that gives the film its title, and some perhaps regionally specific to those on the eastern seaboard – sung by anonymous fishermen akin to a Greek chorus of sorts, to break up the action of the film. This stylistic choice may seem a little off-putting at first, but the plot of the film unfolds a bit like an old fisherman’s tale itself: passed on from prior generations, telling of fantastical feats and various misdeeds of some poor, unfortunate souls.
Blow the Man Down is the debut feature from co-directors Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy (who both wrote the screenplay together). As the film opens, twentysomething-sisters Mary Beth (Morgan Saylor) and Priscilla (Sophie Lowe) Connolly are mourning their recently-deceased mother. Her cause of death is never explained, but throughout the film, we learn more about the inner workings of this coastal New England town, including their mother’s family and acquaintances. June Squib, Marceline Hugot, and Annette O’Toole play the towns peacekeepers; when they’re not playing cards or swapping gossip together, they’re passing judgement on Enid (Character Actress Margo Martindale), who runs the local brothel. Details are in frustratingly short supply in terms of their history, leaving the viewer to fill in the blanks themselves, but Krudy and Cole make the town both grounded in reality and quirky enough to keep things interesting. Blow the Man Down may not reinvent the wheel with its blending of elements of noir, police procedural, and small-town intrigue, but it remains a solid breakout entry for its cast and crew. Naturalistic cinematography by Todd Banhazl steeps the film in gritty realism by letting the film’s grain stand out during night scenes.
Squibb and Martindale may have the most name-brand recognition among the cast, but Saylor and Lowe are young stars in the making. Mary Beth is youthful and impulsive, hoping for a life outside of her small town, and Priscilla is who she turns to when things turn grim after one fateful night. Both actresses make their characters distinctive and genuine, and their chemistry together is one of the more successful aspects of the film.
Clocking in at a tight 91 minutes, Blow the Man Down works as efficiently as a hardened seaman in establishing its bona fides. Still, if you’re anything like me, you’ll wish Krudy and Cole had made a more memorable set of circumstances, or had something new to say about the noir genre. A film with the most important (and smartest) characters as women is always a great starting point, and everyone involved makes the most of what they’re given. Which kind of makes Blow the Man Down a bit like the king crab leg: tough to get to, and light on the meat, but delicious – for those with the right taste buds – and worth the hefty price tag. Pass the buttah.
About the Writer: Ben Sears is a life-long Indianapolis resident, husband, and father of two boys, as well as a contributing writer on ObsessiveViewer.com. Aside from watching movies and television, Ben enjoys photography (bensearsphotography.com) and running marathons, but never at the same time. That would be difficult.