Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Tribeca with Abe: Blow the Man Down

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which ran April 24th – May 5th.

Blow the Man Down
Directed by Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy
US Narrative Competition

Sleepy towns by the sea can serve as the perfect setting for a murder mystery. There is a certain familiarity among those who live in a place that includes more land and space than people, and the relationships that form may not all be entirely positive. When something unexpected occurs, suspicion often turns to those who are least liked, and even if rumors are proven to be untrue, the calm peace that rules a quiet landscape can slowly begin to fracture in a way that will never be fully repaired or restored to normal.

Priscilla (Sophie Lowe) and Mary Beth (Morgan Saylor) are sisters mourning the death of their mother. When Mary Beth tries to distract herself with a night out, she realizes she is in danger and accidentally kills the man threatening her. As Priscilla and Mary Beth move to cover up that murder, they begin to understand the vital role their mother played in keeping things civil within her friend group and the town as a whole. In her absence, Doreen (Marceline Hugot), Susie (June Squibb), and Gail (Annette O’Toole) take steps to take down the owner of the local brothel, Enid (Margo Martindale), threatening more than just the livelihood of Priscilla and Mary Beth.

There is a distinct feeling of dread that accompanies much of this film, first as the sisters are introduced and then when the older women who have run the town for years emerge as rivals. Not featuring their mother onscreen at any point is an effective choice, one that makes this world feel even lonelier for her not being in it, since things are irreversibly changed by her death. Though it’s not her demise that is the subject of this film’s mystery, it almost could be, as if these events, had they happened with her still alive, would have not been cause for concern in anywhere near the same way.

This film features strong performances, namely from Hugot, Squibb, and O’Toole, who get to shine in main roles that they are rarely given at this point. Lowe and Saylor are decent as well, as is the dependable Martindale, but none of the three feel vivid or real. This film presents an intriguing premise, but, despite gloomy backdrops and some thematic musical interludes, it doesn’t seem to have a coherent destination in mind. The experience is mysterious and mildly compelling, but the end result is far from purposeful or satisfying.


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