When considering your viewing options during an extended period stuck at home, a strange kind of freedom emerges. Usually weeknights and weekends are precious enough that when you’re deciding what to watch, you want to stick with known quantities, something familiar, or well-reviewed, or that had a wide release not too long ago. Anything outside those parameters becomes a risk, time lost that could’ve been spent enjoying something else.
Now that most of the world is locked down for the next 30 days (at least, if not more), suddenly that time feels like a vast expanse to fill. We no longer need to stick to what we like, or what we’re relatively sure we’ll like. We can experiment. Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime (not to mention more niche services like Shudder or the Criterion Channel) were made for situations like these.
Blow the Man Down, available now on Amazon Prime, is one of those streaming-only releases that stands to gain the most from the current situation. It’s a solid but smaller movie that in normal circumstances might get overlooked. With the benefit of increasing demand (and increasing eyeballs) this Coen-esque female-led crime thriller has a better chance of getting the audience it deserves.
Writer/directors Danielle Krudy and Bridget Savage Cole set their story in cold and rugged Easter Cove, Maine, where two sisters, Mary Beth (Morgan Saylor) and Priscilla (Sophie Lowe) are preparing for their mother’s funeral. Mom left the girls a house they can’t afford and a fish business that’s barely staying afloat. The restless Mary Beth wants out, and fights her boredom by seeking out trouble. The more modest Priscilla just wishes her little sister would take more responsibility. One night, an evening at the bar for Mary Beth takes a violent turn, and ends with a body to bury. The girls’ troubles coincide with the murder of a local sex worker, and the two crimes send the sisters down a rabbit hole of local secrets, guarded by Easter Cove’s town matriarchs (June Squibb, Marceline Hugot, Annette O’Toole and Margo Martindale).
Blow the Man Down has a strong sense of place and local culture, which Krudy and Savage Cole establish with both stark reality and warm humor. It wouldn’t be stretching to say that the movie often feels like the New England version of Fargo. That’s a bit of an oversimplification, though. Blow the Man Down is unique in its own right; while its tale of rural crime and small town secrets feels familiar, the perspective–overwhelmingly female–is pretty refreshing.
Blow the Man Down is a strong showcase for older female character actors (the cast is one Ann Dowd short of a royal flush in that regard). In most movies, performers like Squibb, Martindale and O’Toole would maybe get to steal a few scenes. Here, they’re the main attraction. It’s clear from the jump that these women power the town, and are bonded together by intense shared experiences. When shown in parallel with Mary Beth and Priscilla, they present an intergenerational portrait of what it’s like to be female in a community with such strong macho undercurrents. The short answer, of course, is that it isn’t easy. The longer answer is much more sordid.
Blow the Man Down suffers from a few nonsensical character choices and plot turns that don’t quite stick the landing. However, its overall message of female solidarity and doing what it takes to get by is a take on the standard small-town crime thriller that feels personal and insightful. If nothing else, it’s heartening to see such a gallery of female talent (particularly female talent over 60) represented in a compelling way.
“Blow the Man Down” is now streaming on Amazon Prime.