“Blow the Man Down” – “The simple truth is that you can understand a town. You can know and love and hate it. You can blame it, resent it, and nothing changes. In the end, you’re just another part of it.” – Brenna Yovanoff
The Connolly sisters, Priscilla (Sophie Lowe) and Mary Beth (Morgan Saylor), reside in Easter Cove, Maine, a fictional coastal town that – actually – is not so picturesque. Sure, it meets the ocean, but a wintertime chill smothers and covers the whole local-lot, as snow and crisp air annually lounge – like unwanted houseguests – for months and months.
Then again, when is it not winter in Maine?
No matter the month…or day, Mary Beth has had it. She missed a year of college and reluctantly stayed in town while her mother fought death, but in the end, Father Time is undefeated, and Mary Margaret Connolly passed. Filled with sorrow, but also freedom, Mary Beth can flee. Priscilla and she, however, inherited her mom’s debts, and their business Connolly Fish could face doom.
Soon after the funeral, a sudden, ill-fated incident transpires (that will not be revealed in this review), and this college-aged twosome confront an entirely different challenge, one that dwarfs debts and stunted dreams.
Without actually asking writers/directors Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy, “Blow the Man Down” might be their lifelong dream come true. They wrote the script’s first draft about 9 years ago, and the ladies should beam with pride, because their vastly entertaining dark comedy is chock-full of surprises, quirky discourse and absorbing characters, played by June Squibb, Marceline Hugot, Annette O’Toole, and Margo Martindale.
Martindale especially stands out. Shades of her performance as Maggie’s (Hilary Swank) miserable mom in “Million Dollar Baby” (2004) creep into this seaside village. Sixteen years later, this critic still gets chills when thinking about Clint Eastwood’s film and Earline (Martindale) ungratefully saying to her daughter, “Why didn’t you just give me the money? Why did you have to buy me a house?”
Anyhow, these women – Susie (Squibb), Doreen (Hugot), Gail (O’Toole), and Enid (Martindale) – comprise a collection of old friends who oversee the goings-on in this New England community.
Every square inch.
They are the decision makers. Cole expands on this idea at a 2019 Toronto International Film Festival screening and Q&A.
“The people who could really scare us growing up were women, so we wanted to think about power, and the nature of how power happens in different ways. Our dream for this movie is that you look back at your mom and (her) friends chatting around a table,” Cole said.
She adds, “We do have these real people who are making real decisions and forwarding the plot, but you underestimate them in the beginning, and we invite you to underestimate them, because we’ve all been underestimating them.”
Apart from a thoughtful, kindhearted cop (Will Brittain) and an atmospheric assembly of fishermen-crooners, the men soak in one-dimensional, forgettable simplicity, naturally by assured design. The homegrown fellas might spend their waking hours throwing darts or commenting on football.
For instance, Susie’s husband Bob (Neil Odoms) steps into their dining room and announces, “I dropped my fork.”
He was watching a New England Patriots game and opines, “They’re not giving Brady any protection. They’re playing like a bunch of nuns.”
The aforementioned group of women certainly are not nuns. On the contrary, they are much closer to a coven. Salem, Mass. and the fictional Eastwick, R.I. are semi-nearby, and although Susie, Doreen, Gail, and Enid aren’t cooking up spells, they spin modern-day double, double toil and trouble.
Circling back, Priscilla and Mary Beth are the ones who find themselves – through their own actions – in trouble, as Lowe and Saylor perfectly portray pits-in-their-stomachs people who are over their heads and skid on their feet. They slide a slippery slope, and their naivety and empathetic state of bleak affairs drive the conflict and our interest, like rooting for an antelope to outrun a lion’s pursuit during a National Geographic TV special.
No warm prairies can be found in Easter Cove, but “Blow the Man Down” is a special movie, and like the Connolly sisters, we become another part of it for 91 minutes…and long after the credits roll.
⭐⭐⭐ 1/2 out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Image and Trailer credits: Amazon Prime Video