Sometimes, you simply can’t break free from the world you know.
Set off the coast of Maine, Downeast tells the story of Tommy (Greg Finley), a young lobster fisherman who lives a simple life working on his father’s boat. When he runs into his old flame Emma Maddox (Dylan Silver) sparks immediately fly once again. However, Tommy is immediately conflicted as deeply held secrets begin to re-emerge and threaten their relationship. Faced with the ire of the mob, Tommy must decide whether or not his love for Emma is worth the risk.
Written and directed by Joe Raffa (but based on an original idea by Finley), Downeast is a gritty, grounded and thoroughly entertaining film from start to finish. Backed by a well-written script and featuring some solid performances, Downeast creates a world of intrigue but never loses the soul of its characters. The North East coastal cities of the United States have garnered a certain mystique about them in recent years. In Downeast, Raffa capitalizes on this charisma and uses it to his advantage, giving the film an almost dreamlike quality at times. Lobster fisherman work hard at sea and enjoy time together at the local pub. Young romance springs up as they remember their youth at the nearby beaches.
But that innocence doesn’t last very long.
Underneath the beautiful exterior lies a world of violence and power that runs the city. Through recent films like The Town and Black Mass, this region has begun to blend its own brand of charm and sweetness with a seedy underbelly that threatens it. Young Finley does an excellent job exemplifying this tension as lead character Tommy, a man who has the strength and size to do harm yet holds those things inside out of a desire to do the right thing.
With this in mind, this is also a world of masculine power and authority. While women are held in high esteem, it’s the men who make the decisions. However, this makes the character of Emma so much more fascinating. Having broken away from her family, she remains one of the most assertive and powerful characters in the film, despite her surroundings. As Emma, Silver brings a confidence and compassion to the role that tangibly shows her strength.
Forced to choose between the love of his life and the life that he’s known, Tommy is a man torn in two directions. On one hand, Tommy is captivated by Emma. Although they haven’t seen each other in years, Tommy has never stopped caring for her but remains conflicted due to his relationship with her brother. However, when they see each other again, he is immediately drawn to her and wants to honour her with honesty and integrity.
However, on the other hand, Tommy is also caught up in the shadows of deception that creeps throughout the town. While he wants no part of criminal activity himself, Tommy lives in a world where it shades everything he does and everyone he cares about. Every decision that he makes feels like it threatens to upset the balance of power in the neighbourhood. As a result, Tommy finds himself caught between a rock and a crime place. To follow his heart could bring pain to those he loves but to ignore his feelings would be unbearable.
In order to break free, Tommy must decide what it means to have integrity in a world that seems to have none. This is a world where doing the right thing may, in fact, be the wrong thing. (“Sometimes a man’s gotta do what he don’t wanna do,” we’re told.) But can darkness and light co-exist? In this corner of the country, the two blur together to create its own unique shade of grey, making it difficult to discern them from one another.
Portraying the region with heart and heat, Downeast is clearly a love letter to the region. Despite the apparently conflict between dark undertones and romantic environments, this is a film that understands its world and executes it well. Featuring some solid performances, Downeast bubbles with deception until it finally boils over at the end.
To hear our interview with Greg Finley, click here.
Downeast is available on VOD on Tuesday, July 13th, 2021.