A review of the new film “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

When so many movies are franchise works or sequels or remakes, it’s such a pleasure to find a genuinely original film like “Three Billboards”. The plotting is unconventional with unexpected developments and most of the characters are complex (unfortunately two young women are presented as stereotypically dumb and a black cop as overly honourable).

This is a social drama in the vein of “Manchester By The Sea” where the central characters are suffering great pain and anguish but, unlike the earlier film, what starts with a sense of vengeance ends in a kind of redemption. Much of the credit for the movie’s success has to go to the British Martin McDonagh who both wrote and directed, as he did in 2008 for “In Bruges”, but he is well-deserved by an excellent cast.

Frances McDormand, Academy Award winner for “Fargo”, is simply brilliant as Mildred Hayes, the mother of a girl who – as the middle of the three billboards states uncompromisingly – was “raped while dying”. Although she initially has the viewer’s unqualified sympathy, we are soon treated to words and actions from her that make clear that this is a woman who will say or do almost anything to advance what she sees as a righteous cause.

Woody Harrelson and especially Sam Rockwell give subtle performances as good cop and bad cop respectively in the Ebbing police station and, as the story develops, they – like Mildred – do not behave as you would expect. There is much physical and mental pain in this tale but also some black humour and unusual friendships. A real must-see.

Note: There is no Ebbing in Missouri and the film was largely shot in Sylva in North Carolina. The film has echoes of a use of billboards in a similar fashion over a long period in a place called Vidor in Texas where the killer has still not been identified.


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