2019 Tribeca Film Festival movie review: ‘Blow the Man Down’

April 27, 2019

by Carla Hay

Morgan Saylor and Sophie Lowe in “Blow the Man Down” (Photo by Jeong “JP” Park)

“Blow the Man Down”

Directed by Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy

World premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on April 26, 2019.

How many times have we seen this in a movie or a TV show? A person accidentally kills someone in self-defense, but instead of doing the logical thing (calling the police or an attorney), the person gets rid of the body, which makes things worse because now the cover-up makes the death looks like a murder. That plot device of throwing logic out the window in order to create suspense is done repeatedly in “Blow the Man Down,” a film that has good intentions and solid performances, but so many illogical actions that you won’t feel much sympathy for the people who keep digging themselves further into criminal (plot) holes.

The movie begins with a scene showing a family gathering taking place right after a funeral. The deceased person is Mary Margaret Connolly, the mother of sisters Priscilla Connolly (played by Sophie Lowe) and Mary Beth Connolly (played by Morgan Saylor). The two sisters are very different from each other: Priscilla is the older, more sensible sister, while Mary Beth is the younger, wilder sister. With their mother’s death, the Connolly sisters now bear the responsibility of running the family business, Connolly Fishing, in their small village of Easter Cove, Maine. Mary Beth has a restless spirit. She wants to sell the business and use the money to get out of town and start a new life. Priscilla vehemently disagrees and thinks the best thing to do is to keep the business going.

Meanwhile, the town has a bed-and-breakfast inn called Ocean View, which is run by Enid Nora Devlin, who also goes by the name Mrs. Devlin (played by Margo Martindale), who’s known the Connolly family for years. The other matriarchs in town—Doreen Burke (played by Marceline Hugot), Gail Maguire (played by Annette O’Toole) and Susie Gallagher (played by June Squibb)—are busybodies who make a point of knowing what’s going on with everyone in the community. It all sounds so quaint and small-town folksy—except it’s not.

Ocean View is really a brothel, and Mrs. Devlin is a madam who has a steely attitude underneath her friendly façade. Without giving away any spoilers, more than one person ends up dead, plus there’s a missing bag of $50,000 cash, blackmail and cover-ups of crimes. Mary Beth and Priscilla are involved in covering up the death of one of the people—a thug named Gorski (played by Ebon Moss-Bachrach). They dismember his body and hide it in an ice box. Another dead person’s body washes up at sea, and the cause of death might be an accident or a murder.

A young police officer named Justin Brennan (played by Will Brittain) is the main person investigating the death of the person found at sea. Justin takes a liking to Priscilla, whose guilty conscience makes her even more nervous when he makes excuses to come over and visit her. At first, Officer Brennan appears to be a somewhat dimwitted neophyte who can be easily fooled, but he slowly begins to suspect that the sisters know more than they are telling him.

Because Easter Cove is such a small town, it’s easy to believe that only one cop would be doing most of the investigating. However, with all the small-town gossips who are in everybody else’s business, it’s hard to believe that word wouldn’t get out quicker about some of the suspicious activities that were done in plain view. As for that bag of $50,000 in cash that changes possession throughout the film, spending that kind of money wouldn’t go unnoticed in this small town, so it defies logic that certain characters go to a lot of trouble to get the cash in order to spend it in a way that the town would take notice.

“Blow the Man Down” has the benefit of a talented cast that adds layers of depth to a script that isn’t particularly original. Saylor and Martindale stand out as the most compelling to watch because their morally dubious characters in the movie have impulsive tendencies, so their actions aren’t always predictable. “Blow the Man Down”—written and directed by Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy—also cleverly shows local fisherman characters singing well-known sailor songs (including the film’s namesake), as this movie’s version of a Greek chorus. The movie’s last 15 minutes are a flurry of activities that look like desperately written scenes aimed at trying to tie up some loose strings in the plot. If you’re willing to overlook the screenplay’s flaws, you might enjoy “Blow the Man Down” for the movie’s best assets: the cast’s performances and the way the film convincingly captures the mood of a small town with some very big, dirty secrets.

UPDATE: Amazon Prime Video will premiere “Blow the Man Down” on March 20, 2020.