Most films exist in the loud explosions, in the screaming matches, in the chaos. Blow the Man Down exceeds in opposite circumstances, finding intrigue in the quiet stillness of a small town in Maine. Following the Connolly sisters in the immediate events after their mother’s death, writing/directing duo Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy tell a story focusing on the specifics of living in a fishing village on the coast, looking for details in spaces that usually are passed over.
A speedy 90-minute runtime differs in from the actuality of each scene in Blow the Man Down, with Cole and Krudy never rushing to the next plot point. The film finds its footing in the smaller moments, though, the ones revolving around the townspeople of Easter Cove, especially the older women that hold all of the power. The youth of the two sisters remains on full display, as they get deeper into troubling circumstances and incriminating behavior. The directors find their voice by discussing the specificity of living in a small town where everyone knows your secrets, yet no one cares to share these secrets with the general community. Blow the Man Down ends up being a careful study about growing up following a tragedy, about fending for oneself, and about the oddness in towns that people inhabit.
In much of popular culture, the stars dive the series, the film, the video forward. Audiences go to the theaters to see big names doing hilarious or dramatic works of acting. They invest their time and money in a face they’ve seen before, one that becomes known in households across the country. In the case of Blow the Man Down, the leads are fresh, unknown faces that keep the story moving, while the supporting cast features much more famous character actors like June Squibb, Marceline Hugot, and Margo Martindale.
The sisters, Mary Beth (Morgan Saylor) and Priscilla Connolly (Sophie Lowe), do a fine job carrying the film, but the scenes with the supporting cast, especially the three women mentioned above, become much more interesting. Watching the dynamics of the power-holders in this tiny, coastal village turns into a much better film than the one regarding the sisters’ crime with a local lowlife. Martindale in particular puts forth a commanding supporting performance, stealing scenes any time she appears on screen. You want more of her and Squibb in the film, regardless of its focus on the younger sisters.
One scene sticks into the corner of your mind, with all of the women sitting around a dining room table talking about the sisters, the town, and the secrets in-between. It’s the best scene in the film, and shows that Cole and Krudy deserve to be regarded as talents to watch in the independent film community. The precise and specific nature of this scene, as well as the bookending shots of seamen singing fishermen anthems, bring you a sense of immediate time and place, a tough act to achieve in an initial script. Their Spirit Award nomination and Tribeca U.S. Narrative win for Best First Screenplay and Best Screenplay respectively reinforce just how special these filmmakers can be in the next decade.
Time and Place
Mentioned above, the time and place of the film sets it apart. When the lead actors struggle to keep up with the acting of the older, more established supporting cast, the feel of the film never changes. Easter Cove never seems like a place that comes from the mind of the writers, rather having a clear indication that this place exists in Maine and on other coasts around the country. Easter Cove is a real place, and the stories rarely become too far-fetched or outlandish to follow.
Cole and Krudy don’t stray from this setting, in all of its quirks and idiosyncrasies. The local bar, the brothel, the inhabitants all exist (or existed) in the world, and you get a non-airbrushed version of a town that has stayed the same for decades. Other than the strong cast, this composed reality pushes the film above an average drama and into something with a higher sense of value. Though the film won’t bowl you over, it will leave you wanting more from these characters and these directors. It gives you just enough to mark down your calendar for the next from from Cole and Krudy.
Blow The Man Down: Conclusion
Blow the Man Down warrants a watch for Martindale and Squibb alone. The odd seamen singing, the up-and-coming script, and the specific telling of a clear yet wide-eyed story becoming icing on the cake.
What is your favorite first screenplay? Let us know in the comments below!
Blow the Man Down will be released on March 20, 2020, by Amazon Studios.
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