Millennials Talk Cinema: Amazon’s ‘Blow the Man Down,’ Netflix’s ‘Lost Girls’
Movie theaters are closed. Anticipated releases like “The Quiet Place 2” and Disney's “Mulan,” originally expected to hit cineplexes this spring, have had their release dates indefinitely canceled until further notice. Fresh releases, including hits like Pixar's “Onward” and the horror remake “The Invisible Man,” are now available online and for home viewing less than three weeks after debuting in the cinemas. In short, movie- lovers are going to be finding their entertainment exclusively on platforms like Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon, along with the various pay-per-view options available to dish and cable subscribers.
Since launching “Millennials Talk Cinema” (subtitled “So, I Just Saw This Movie …) a year-and-a-half ago, our locally- based film critics have made it a regular habit to occasionally call attention to some worthy or talked-about streaming film. Now that there is not other alternative, our pool of writers will continue their work, for as long as necessary, focusing solely on streaming content. This week, we bring you reviews of an edgy-twisty, Amazon Prime crime drama from unpredictable filmmakers Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy, and a gripping dramatic-thriller from renowned documentarian Liz Garbus.
‘BLOW THE MAN DOWN' (Rated R)
“Blow the Man Down” is a lean movie, with little to no filler, and it barrels along at a breakneck speed to deliver its sharp, biting tale in a crisp, tense 91-minute runtime.
Following the night of their mother's funeral, sisters Priscilla (Sophie Lowe) and Mary Beth Connelly (Morgan Saylor) are thrown into a hurricane of murder, stolen money, and underworld politics when one of them has a deadly brush with a dangerous man connected to their fishing town's second staple industry: a bed and breakfast the specializes in seafood, seaside views and sex work.
The whole story covers a haggard, nerve-wracking two days in a seemingly sleepy Maine town village by some of the most intimidating macrame-clad matriarchs I've seen in any movie.
Ever. It's off kilter and frantic and really, really good.
“Blow the Man Down' feels like “Fargo” meets “Stars Hollow” in the strangest, most darkly fascinating way. The sisters, the town mothers, the bed and breakfast madam, and “her girls” are all dynamic, interestingly written, multi dimensional characters that are woven together in a fiercely engaging tapestry.
And I haven't even mentioned the music.
Possibly my favorite choice by writer/director duo Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy is the Greek Chorus of fishermen who open the movie and reappear at each act to comment on and transition the story through a series of sung sea shanties. It's breathtaking, beautifully integrated and 100% an homage to classical Greek tragedy structure. Their singing is a deep thrum, dredging up bilge water and an ancient perception that vibrates through this modern murderous fable. A palpably invasive, sparse score of pounding notes and semi-discordant strings nudges you throughout every muscle-clenching interaction of “Blow the Man Down.” It's inside you and haunting and so utterly engaging when paired with the vibrant visual style and phenomenal performances.
In the overstuffed and overwhelming sea of streamable movies available to us now, “Blow the Man Down” is not just a really good watch. It is a polished pearl that would be easy to miss. I loved every bizarre minute of it, and it should definitely be on your watch list.
[Suggested Emojis: Heart, Knife, and maybe a Fish]
‘LOST GIRLS' (Rated R)
“Lost Girls” begins with an unsettling chase in the dark, and even though it lightens up in a literal sense, metaphorically, the movie is fairly bleak from then on. It's quiet and heartbreaking, and though it falters in a couple of ways as a film, it's a captivating portrayal of a family in their darkest moments.
Mari Gilbert (Amy Ryan, playing a real-life figure) is a very interesting character - judgmental, haunted, and filled with anger. Ryan captures all sides of the character. Her scenes with Thomasin McKenzie (who plays daughter Sherre) were among the more heart wrenching of the film.
“Lost Girls” is based on a true story, which definitely effects the pace and shape of the storytelling, because real life is messy. Stories can be messy too, either by intention or accident.
But mysteries and thrillers give an implicit promise that their clues will be followed up on, that the plot points they introduce are stepping stones, even if we don't like where they lead. “Lost Girls” drops clues that are not followed up on and asks questions that are never answered.
I suppose that is to be expected in a film about an unsolved crime. Perhaps, for that very reason, the frustrating lack of conclusion, it's infuriating messiness and bleakness, is the exact result Mari Gilbert wanted her film to have.
One of its major themes is the intersection of politics, propriety, and public good, and the viewer is shown again and again how the police are willing to look away from a crime for the sake of appearances, money, and the illusion of control, and most damningly, because of apathy.
A sex worker's life and death is worth less than the discomfort of a prominent doctor. A mother's pain is worth less than a favorable report in the media. It's tempting to wish that weren't true, but I think we all know that it often can be.
“Lost Girls,” for all its faults, is a strong reminder not to let it be.
[Suggested Emojis: Thumbs Up, Thinking Face]