Blow The Man Down is the answer to the question: What would a movie that smells like that sea but tastes a little rotten look like? Directed by Danielle Krudy and Bridget Savage Cole, it’s the kind of film with a vibe so palpable it’s pungent, one that sticks to your skin and dominates your thoughts long after the credits have rolled.
Now available to stream on Amazon Prime Video, Blow The Man Down immerses viewers in the drama of Easter Cove, a small fishing town off the coast of Maine. We meet sisters Mary Beth (Morgan Saylor) and Priscilla Connolly (Sophie Lowe), whose mother’s death has left them with few options and a stack of bills too thick to think about. Their only help comes from their mother’s oldest friends, played by June Squibb, Annette O’Toole, and Marceline Hugot, and local brothel (ahem, bed & breakfast) owner Enid Devlin (Margot Martindale), whose long been estranged from the group.
But when they suddenly find themselves in the middle of a gritty murder investigation, Mary Beth and Priscilla realize that the women in their town know all too well how to handle secrets and intrigue. As they dig deeper into the town’s seedy underbelly of sex, drugs, and sin, the two sisters uncover dark truths about their family, their community, and themselves.
Cole Savage and Krudy started working on the screenplay — which won the top prize at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2019 — after graduating from Wesleyan almost a decade ago. Ahead of Blow the Man Down’s release, Refinery29 caught up with them about their nautical noir masterpiece.
Refinery29: This movie is built on sisterhood, both literally and figuratively. What did you want to say about the bonds between women?
Bridget Savage Cole: “We really started with what we had in common. We both had really strong relationships with our sisters, and are from Irish Catholic families.We wanted to do something with high stakes, right? We liked the idea of using what would you do if you're a sister, this idea that they would have to come through for your sister, and then went from there.”
Danielle Krudy: “We talked about the theme being sisterhood with a capital S — the perks, or the power and the pain of sisterhood. Who's in, who's out. We see this movie with the through line of the older generation as kind of a reckoning. Who did they exclude from their sisterhood? And then the power of it, too, where you see the way that they're protecting each other, and loyalty, and the bond's still there.”
B.S.C: “It was important to us that there was a nuance between, it wasn't just like sisterhood all is in a positive lens, because there are some layers of exclusion and biases, this insider/outsider mentality of the town kind of ripples through the sisterhood as well.”
The movie has a very specific sense of place: The dark underbelly of fishing towns. Did you have personal experiences to mine for context?
B.S..C.: “Krudy grew up spending her summers in Connecticut — Groton Long Point — and I grew up in Beverly, MA., which is right next to Gloucester. And then I worked in Bar Harbor, ME, for a year, and that's definitely a fishing town, as well as a tourist town. The characters that you meet in fishing towns really surprise you. These towns are so beautiful and quaint, and they can really have this pastoral, picture perfect, beautiful lifestyle, but then fishing families have a lot of problems. Crime and fishing are really age-old partners.
“You can actually relate to the fishing industry being in the film industry. People are workers, but they're also their own bosses. They get to be out, decide what jobs to go on, and it's like a boom or bust kind of mentality. Sometimes money swarms everybody, and sometimes it's really tight. But we wanted to explore the women on shore, and the communities on shore as opposed to going out to sea with that boat.”
D.K.: “Bridget worked on her dad's construction crew, and I worked in the camera department for years. We had been these women that had entered into these spaces that men rule the roost at. And we really wanted to bring that out in the fishing town atmosphere, too. That's something we just lived.”
Speaking of atmosphere — how did you craft the aesthetics of the town and those who live there? Everything and everyone looks salty!
B.S.C.: “We really wanted to portray women as women who felt familiar and we wanted to see women from our lives, but with the sense of regalness, and like the queens that they are. We pulled some paintings as visual references, and if you look at your mom's friends and the way they dress for an event, and it's like turtlenecks with the jewelry over it. Put that side by side with a Queen Elizabeth portrait, and there are similarities!"
D.K.: “Some of the compositions and the way we shoot them is also part of what gives them the grandness. You really can see these women holding their power, because they hold the frame, or because it moves with them, and according to their energy and agency.”
I love the scene where the matriarchs are having tea and talking business and one of their husbands walks in — he’s clearly intruding. It’s very clear who holds the power in this town.
B.S.C. “That's really a classic flip the script with so many scenes you've seen in movies, where you've seen the men get shit done, and then the wife comes in and interrupts it, or the mom comes in and interrupts it.”
D.K.: “We were inspired by some movies in particular, we call them our Holy Trinity, which is Lynne Ramsay’s Morvern Callar, Pedro Almodovar’s Volver, and the Coen brothers’ Blood Simple. We just got really energized by their storytelling in the films.”
It got really cold while you were filming this in the winter — how did you protect national treasure June Squibb from the elements?
B.S.C: “We questioned our choices so many times! June was the biggest rock star. There’s a big emotional climax scene where all the women are outdoors, but we found out it was going to be 9 degrees out. They were down to do it. And they stood there for each other's performances, too, even when they were off camera, to make sure they all had a fair chance to really shine on camera. It was just cool that they all showed up. They all were in it with each other. It was really punishing.”
D.K.: “We were ruled by weather in this movie, and I feel like that's actually what it's like to be in Maine. Weather is not just a background element; it's everything.”
The story is framed by various sea shanties, performed by male fishermen and then at the end, by the women of the town. What inspired you to structure it that way? “Blow the Man Down” definitely takes a whole other meaning when it’s sung by a group of women.
D.K.: “They were always part of the movie. Day one was researching sea shanties. it was just this context that really resonated with us, and it's organic to the setting, so we came upon that sound honestly.
B.S.C.: “Once we started going deep and listening to shanties, we could feel them — they bring this sort of timelessness to the story. Krudy's a Google Image master, and we just were pulling all these beautiful paintings, and just trying to think how we could make this contemporary story feel ancient? Like a woman standing in front of the ocean for all women standing in front of the ocean, or these are men working for all men working. We think of the shanties as the spiritual core of the movie, and it's also this masculine yin to the yang of the film, where you're still feeling the presence of men even though the story is focused on the women. That's really how it feels in these towns, too — the dominance, and the way the tone is set.”
D.K.: “The men are showboating, they're on the cliffs, they want to be seen, they're drawing a lot of attention, they're making kind of a big deal, cinematically, when they sing their shanties. But the women are singing them almost quietly to themselves, but it's still their song at the end, and that really is the meaning of the movie.”
And the fact that they’re singing it to these young women makes it almost feel like they’re being invited into a secret coven.
B. S.C: “Exactly! Welcome to being a woman.”
D.K.: “Welcome to the inside.”