Downeast is a wicked good mob drama set in Maine that takes you for a spin down the wrong side of the lobster claw. Following up his superb saltwater suspense picture, Dark Harbor, co-writer/director Joe Raffa goes deeper into the seedy underbelly of Vacationland. Beneath the clambakes, blueberries, and ice cream, we find dark secrets, bloody faces, and traps full of heroin.
Tommy (Greg Finley) works his drunk dad’s lobster boat in the port side town he never got out of. Unfortunately, he is also paying off the interest on his dad’s gambling debts to the local forces of darkness — the town’s branch of the Irish mob lead by Kerrigan (Judson Mills). Kerrigan is getting pressure from the Italian mafia from Boston’s North End to start running smack into the country through lobster boats, and he wants one of those boats to be Tommy’s.
“Tommy strives to keep Emma alive while sinking deeper…into the shadowy world…”
Meanwhile, Emma (Dylan Silver), the sister of Tommy’s best friend, comes back home trying to get answers about her brother’s death several years earlier. As she goes around town trying to figure out what happened, her questions not only go unanswered but also start bringing the kind attention that may complicate her leaving town again. Tommy strives to keep Emma alive while sinking deeper and deeper into the shadowy world that no one talks about.
Disclosure: I grew up in Downeast Maine, during the 1970s and 80s. At that time, there was little film representation of Maine outside of Stephen King pictures. While a great place to visit, living in the Pine Tree State can be a desperate struggle for many of the yearlong residents, where you work three jobs during the summer to save up enough to avoid starving to death in the punishing winters. There is also precious little to do after dark once you finish your ice cream except drink yourself to death. Gravity seems heavier there, making it hard, if not impossible, to get up and out as you feel you are hundreds of miles away from the rest of the world. There has been a long wait for a movie that could really show what life is like for the doomed by the sea. Downeast captures the essence of the frozen life in Maine better than any other film in recent memory.
"…captures the essence of the frozen life in Maine better than any other film in recent memory."