While practicing her eulogy for her mother’s funeral, Priscilla (Sophie Lowe, Once Upon A Time in Wonderland) credits her mom with giving her sister, Mary Beth (Morgan Saylor, Homeland), and her “Strong moral compass.” That night, Mary Beth kills a man (Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Damages) in self-defense. She’d met him at a bar but, after spotting the gun in his glove compartment, was prepared to walk away and call it a night. Then she saw the blood, hair, and various female items in his trunk, and he saw her see them.
Despite it being self-defense, Priscilla and Mary Beth don’t call the police. One possible reason for this is offered by the title of Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy’s new movie. Blow the Man Down (2019) takes place in Easter Cove, Maine, a port town with a whore house and fish.
The first thing you hear in this movie is the title song being sung by a group of fishermen led by David Coffin. Like most sea shanties, “Blow the Man Down” is meant to be sung by sailors while they work, yet the scene is misleading. Yes, fishermen are singing and they’re singing over a montage of sailors doing their jobs, but they’re not actually singing while they work, and that’s the difference. At one-point Coffin winks at the camera, emphasizing the fact that this is a performance.
Coffin and his men go to a lot of trouble to make it look like they’re doing work, and “manly” work, if you give any credence to gender stereotypes. Along with two renditions of “Blood Red Roses,” and one of, “The Ship in Distress,” “Blow the Man Down” gets sung twice in this movie. Rather than showcase the men, however, these scenes draw attention to the women of Easter Cove and how much power they wield.
There’s certainly a gender divide going on. All of the cops that question the Connolly sisters are male. While Officer Brennan (Will Brittain, Colony) isn’t completely corrupt yet, Officer Coletti (Skipp Sudduth, Quarry) is easily swayed by the ladies. They’re not using their sexual charms either (at least not directly), but their wits in order to get their way.
As for the actresses playing those ladies, you couldn’t ask for a more formidable cast. As brothel madam, Enid, Margo Martindale (The Americans) can go from full pimp energy to vulnerable in the bat of an eye. Annette O’Toole (Smallville), June Squib (Nebraska), and Marceline Hugot (The Leftovers) play the power trio trying to shut Enid’s business down. In any other film, they would be portrayed as prudes – old ladies passing judgment on Enid – and there’s certainly some of that going on, but these are tough broads, too, who know how to use their age as a cover. People aren’t going to suspect the” little old lady” who offers cops pie when they stop by for a visit.
At one-point Squib’s Suzie writes a condolence card. It’s nothing fancy, and she probably had a box of the cards at her house, but a gesture doesn’t have to be fancy to mean something. It’s thoughtful and at the same time it has the desired effect, and it’s these scenes that stand out the most in Blow the Man Down. These “little old ladies” aren’t necessarily behaving out of character but proving that old doesn’t mean feeble.
It’s the young who make mistakes in this movie, as Priscilla and Mary Beth prove not to be the most competent criminals. For one thing, they leave fingerprints everywhere and the film never calls them out on this. For another, there’s a problem with their company logo. Connolly Fish is what it sounds like – a small fish shop. The first time we see the logo is when Priscilla is sharpening one of her knives. The knife is in the foreground while the logo appears on a sticker on some butcher paper. The image is of two mermaids holding hands. Above it is the name of their shop and below it is how long they’ve been open: “Est. 1975.” The implication is that the two mermaids represent the Connolly sisters and that only together can they weather this storm. It’s also what can get them caught, however, as they return to the scene of the crime in one of their company trucks (the logo’s written on the door) and leave behind one of their knives (the logo is on the handle).
The other time we see a mermaid in this film is at Enid’s brothel, Ocean View. All of the door knockers in Easter Cove mirror the personalities of the people who live there – an angel for the trio, an amphibious looking creature at Connolly’s house that (at first glance) looks like a lion, and a mermaid at Enid’s place, except her mermaid, is alone.
Blow the Man Down pits the men and women of Easter Cove against each other, but the film almost does too good a job keeping them apart. There’s a reason, though, this movie is called “Blow the Man Down” and not “Blood Red Roses” or “The Ship in Distress.” In the end, it’s the women who will come out on top.
Blow the Man Down begins streaming March 20th on Amazon Prime.