Tribeca 2019: "Blow The Man Down" Review- Crime Thriller With Coen Brothers Feel
If the death of their mother wasn’t difficult enough on the Connolly Sisters (Sophie Lowe and Morgan Saylor), now they have to maintain the family business, pay for a large home they cannot afford and deal with the strange behavior of their late mother’s friends. Then one of them kills somebody. If they want to, Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy are going to be making films for a long time. Both graduates of Wesleyan University, Cole and Krudy teamed up for their first feature with “Blow the Man Down”—a bold first film that, although presents some familiar story beats, offers a gripping narrative that exudes originality.
“Blow the Man Down” begins in song, a fisherman’s hymn you may hear at a bar. The song resurfaces in the film at different occasions as if the images on screen are merely the poetry between the lines of the song. I’d like to think the captain of the fishing boat, boasting his aria, is sitting us down to tell us a tale from long ago over a few pints. This approach to the narrative evokes a classic Coen brothers feel, like a “Fargo” set in Maine. It is the darkest of comedies but the humor works and this writing tandem knows exactly when to implement it.
The film is a mystery, a thriller, full of the classic tropes: the bag of cash, the hidden murder weapon. And to stress further, the discoveries of the above by our protagonists feels convenient at times, as if to only serve in pushing the plot forward. I must admit, however, this is a stretch for a criticism. The development of character and story is handled with aplomb. It is clear these two storytellers focus heavily on their characters.
This film boasts a powerfully female-led cast which features Annette O’Toole, June Squibb and is helmed by Margo Martindale who is a force to be reckoned with. Martindale plays Enid Nora Devlin, a businesswoman who presides over an eerie bed-and-breakfast called the Ocean View. Except, the place is a brothel. Enid has been running this joint for years, and although she now flies solo, once had the help of her friends. As the criminal operation soon unfolds, it threatens to unveil the disturbing underbelly of this seaside town.
The photography of the film is beautiful. The geography of the area certainly lends itself well to a majestic looking picture, laden with intense blue hues. While pleasant to look at, the thrilling nature of the story acts like a car crash—impossible to look away from. What Krudy and Cole steer clear of, however, is the ominous-music-thing-lurking-in-the-corner-bit. Of course, this twist is refreshing in that we have but the performances to lean on for the thrill.
After premiering at Tribeca this April, “Blow the Man Down” is still looking for U.S. distribution, but I have no doubt Krudy and Cole will find their audience. This is a true ensemble piece. A film that introduces two cinematic voices that, as Loren Hammonds puts, “won’t soon be forgotten.”