TIFF Reviews: 'Blow the Man Down' Is a Moody, Muddled Noir Mystery Directed by Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy

Starring Morgan Saylor, Sophie Lowe, Margo Martindale, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Annette O'Toole, Gayle Rankin, June Squibb
TIFF Reviews: 'Blow the Man Down' Is a Moody, Muddled Noir Mystery Directed by Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy
A death in the family takes a darkly comic turn in a Maine fishing village, where a funeral gives way to a murder cover-up for two sisters who just lost their mother.
Priscilla Connolly is the straight-laced one who's trying to retain ownership of the house and family fish shop in spite of some financial struggles, while Mary Beth (Sophie Lowe) is a free spirit and hard drinker who wants to split town and go to college. After mom's wake, Mary Beth gets drunk and goes home with a guy (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) from the bar, but after he becomes threatening, she kills him and gets Priscilla's help dumping the body.
In covering up the murder, the Connolly sisters end up getting embroiled in town secrets — specifically those surrounding the brothel run by Enid (Margo Martindale), an old friend of their mom's. There's a second dead body, a stash of dirty money, a trio of snoopy old ladies and a clingy cop: all of the makings of a classic crime thriller. It's compelling to watch the sisters struggle between morality and loyalty as they get in way over their heads.
Noir maritime atmosphere is in abundant supply here, helped along by the jarring violin drones of the score — although Blow the Man Down sometimes struggles to find the balance between crime caper and noir mystery. The dialogue has the stiffness of community theatre, and a Greek chorus of singing fishermen (who periodically appear to perform the titular sea shanty) is a curiously formal touch that doesn't fit the mood. The humour isn't out-there enough for this to be a proper black comedy, while the plot surrounding Enid's shady dealings unfolds too simply for it to be a compelling mystery.
There are plenty of compelling parts that don't quite cohere, and it's a little difficult to know how to feel after the film's abrupt ending. Still, Blow the Man Down's story of family devotion will have audiences rooting for Priscilla and Mary Beth in spite of the characters' questionable choices. (Amazon Studios)