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TIFF 2019 Review: Blow the Man Down

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Image Courtesy of TIFF

Get ready to have some sea shanties rolling around in your head after watching Blow the Man Down.  Set in the small town of Easter Cove, Maine the community here has been fishing the waters and acting as a port for as long as it’s been established.  Sisters Mary Beth (Morgan Saylor) and Priscilla Connolly (Sophie Lowe) have unfortunately just lost their mother, who left them in a good deal of debt and a fishmonger business that isn’t paying the bills.  Mary Beth cannot wait to leave this small town that is smothering her, having stayed behind to help in her mother’s illness, but Priscilla is happy at home and rooted in this dreary place.

After an argument with her sister and in an effort to blow off some steam, Mary Beth has a chance encounter with a man at a bar, whom she is then forced to kill (with a harpoon no less… or was it the brick?) in self defence.  The sisters go about trying to cover up the crime, but in a small town, nothing stays secret for long.  Especially where there are an active group of elderly matriarchs (including the always excellent June Squibb) and a brothel owner (Margo Martindale) butting heads and complicating matters.

Saylor and Lowe do well anchoring this crime thriller and holding their own against veteran actors like Martindale, who, as usual brings her A game.  And while they are the ones committing the crime here, these two young women still allow for empathy, letting the audience cheer them on in their deceptions.  The film is humorous in spots, suspenseful in others and is at its best when the plot truly starts to thicken.  This talented group of actors keeps any of the slight changes in tone from veering into satirical.

Writer-directors Bridget Savage-Cole and Danielle Krudy have managed to craft an intelligent little mystery-noir film here in the same vein as Fargo.  It does fall a little into predictable territory late in the game, which is shame considering there was opportunity to perhaps consider another plot twist or two, but with the addition of the supporting character subplots, there is enough to keep interest from waning.  The two first time directors have good attention to detail, creating a world full that feels grey and damp surrounded by lobster traps and fish heads.  The characters’ environment all serves to enrich the intrigue which is present in abundance, just like those sea shanties you’ll be humming on the way out.

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