With movie theaters temporarily closed and everybody cocooning at home, the best way to see a movie right now is curled up on your own sofa. There’s no dress code and no assigned seating.
With the rise of so many streaming platforms, there’s plenty of new product out there too, just waiting to be discovered. (Alongside more than a century’s worth of classic cinema, which we all have time to rediscover now. But that’s another column.)
Just released last week on Amazon Prime, Blow The Man Down is an entertaining New England chowder of black comedy, femme-noir, and mood-making from co-writers and directors Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy. Set in a small fishing village on the rugged Maine seacoast (is there any other kind?), the story revolves around family legacies, deep, dark secrets, and fish—lots of fish, chopped, sliced, and pan-fried.
As the story begins, most of the denizens of Easter Cove are filling up the parlor of the Connelly sisters’ home after the funeral of their beloved and respected mother, Mary Margaret. Friends recall that Mary Margaret was always the one who would show up in rubber boots with a sump pump if your basement flooded in the middle of the night. Now, responsible older sister Priscilla (Sophie Lowe) and her more rebellious sibling Mary Beth (Morgan Saylor)—who’s had to postpone her freshman year at college—have to figure out how to maintain the family home and fish market on their own.
After the sisters’ private spat away from their guests—Mary Beth is done with Easter Cove and wants out—the younger sib stomps off to the local bar, just looking for trouble. She finds it. But when the chips are down, it turns out, a girl’s best friend is her sister. The next day finds two dead bodies in town—one floating in a patch of reeds to stymie the two village cops, and one submerged in an ice chest that nobody knows about. Yet.
While the Connelly sisters deal with their situation, a larger, related story emerges around prominent townswoman Enid (Margo Martindale), who runs the local hotel—with benefits. When Mary Margaret was alive, she defended Enid. But now, a trio of local women (a Greek Chorus of determined grannies played by June Squibb, Marceline Hugot, and Annette O’Toole) decide it’s time to shut down Enid’s business for good.
Factor in a tough-talking cookie (Gayle Rankin) developing a grudge against Enid, and the younger, more principled member of the local PD (Will Brittain) nursing a crush on Priscilla, and it’s time to sit back and let the games begin.
Life in Easter Cove is beautifully realized—you can almost smell the raw fish, and you might find yourself shivering from the snowy chill. (Better bundle up while you watch!) The mood is heightened by a chorus of grizzled fishermen singing sea shanties (like the title tune) deftly salted into the action. But it’s the women who really run things; men are relegated to the (largely ornamental) police force, the bar, and the fishing boats. One befuddled elder statesman who wanders into the kitchen where the women are having a pow-wow is gently but firmly dispatched back to his TV viewing by his wife.
This subtle tweaking of gender expectations gives the movie its own lively viewpoint. As the entwined dramas and dueling mysteries play out, the formidable Enid notes, “Lotta people underestimate young women. That’s why they get away with a lot.” Women of all ages emerge as a collective force to be reckoned with in this diverting fish story of a movie.
BLOW THE MAN DOWN
*** (out of four)
With Sophie Lowe, Morgan Saylor, Gayle Rankin, and Margo Martindale. Written and directed by Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy. An Amazon release. Rated R. 90 minutes.