Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

 

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After just two feature films, writer-director Martin McDonagh proves he is now at the top of his game.

 

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Woody Harrelson and Frances McDormand

  

With four awards at the Golden Globes, nine nominations in the Baftas and seven in the London Film Critics’ Circle Awards, Three Billboards… will no doubt figure heavily come the Oscars. Well, it certainly deserves all the acclaim it is getting and writer-director Martin McDonagh will now be able to film whatever he wants to in future. Having been a successful author of fiction and a playwright of great esteem, he is now conquering the cinema with his own brand of filmmaking. Having rewritten the rules in the world of theatre, and with Seven Psychopaths and In Bruges already in the can, he is now doing the same for the cinema, as he clearly demonstrates with his latest film.

 

The titular billboards in McDonagh’s film are huge signs that Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) has erected following the rape and murder of her daughter seven months previously. The local town hall and the police department have still not discovered the killer, so Mildred publicises that fact and a whole lot of trouble ensues. The three billboards declaim “Raped while dying”, “And still no arrests”, and “How come, Chief Willoughby?”  Sheriff Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) is not helped by his fellow officer Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell) who, still living with his doting, bigoted old mother, is useless as a detective. So, Mildred is really up against it – but she doesn’t give up the fight.

  

Frances McDormand is superb (when is she ever anything else?) as Mildred, determined at all costs to avenge her daughter’s killer. Woody Harrelson is fine as the sympathetic sheriff, but a terminal illness comes at a crucial time for him and Mildred. Sam Rockwell picks up the character of the inept police officer Jason and runs with it. In an altogether excellent cast, Clarke Peters stands out as the new broom that sweeps into the Ebbing police department, and there is excellent work from Lucas Hedges as Mildred’s son Robbie and Abbie Cornish as Willoughby’s wife Anne.

 

Writer-director Martin McDonagh has the knack, or the art, even, of leavening the most horrific incidents by cutting through them with a shaft of humour. It’s a grim picture he paints but, well, you can’t help laughing. By the end of the film you will be crying not only tears of sorrow but of joy, too.

 

MICHAEL DARVELL

 

Cast: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Lucas Hedges, John Hawkes, Peter Dinklage, Abbie Cornish, Clarke Peters, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Caleb Landry Jones, Sandy Martin, Kerry Condon, Željko Ivanek, Nick Searcy.

 

Dir Martin McDonagh, Pro Graham Broadbent, Pete Czernin and Martin McDonagh, Screenplay Martin McDonagh, Ph Ben Davis, Pro Des Inbal Weinberg, Ed Jon Gregory, Music Carter Burwell, Costumes Melissa Toth.

 

Blueprint Pictures/Fox Searchlight Pictures/Film4 Productions/Cutting Edge Group-Fox Searchlight Pictures.

115 mins. UK/USA. 2017. Rel: 12 January 2018. Cert. 15.