From Martin McDonagh, director of In Bruges and The Seven Psychopaths, comes another thrilling black comedy, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Movie buff Isabella Packer reviews the Golden Globe 2018 winner to give you the heads up on whether it’s worth all the buzz. In cinemas now!

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Mildred (Frances McDormand) stands in a fight against the police as
she challenges them with her controversial billboards. © Fox Searchlight Pictures

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is the black comedy crime-drama that has rocked the award shows this season. The film follows hard-bitten and grieving mother, Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand), as she challenges the police’s unsolved investigation of the rape and murder of her daughter. Woody Harrelson’s Texan charm brings life to the Chief of Police Willoughby, who suffers from pancreatic cancer, and supporting actor Sam Rockwell portrays officer Dixon as a racist, angry police officer.

Despite the dark themes that the film navigates, the humour delivered by the characters offers a respite from the darkness and gravity of the film. McDormand’s character will stop at nothing when trying to find her daughter’s killer, not even at kicking a high school student in the you-know-where and drilling a dentist’s thumbnail with his own instrument. However, it’s her character that provides some of the funniest quips of the film.

Safe to say, this is a testament to the director and writer of the film – Martin McDonagh (known for Seven Psychopaths and In Bruges). He shows his talent as he tackles controversial issues and pushes the actors’ abilities to their limits while offering us a new side of the well-known actors themselves.

Three_Billboards_Outside_Ebbing_Missouri-Featured
Frances McDormand as Mildred and Peter Dinklage as James in movie still of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.© Fox Searchlight Pictures

The stunning scenery of America contrasts starkly against the setting of a typical small town that hides a vast amount of secrets. Martin McDonagh’s genius is in his directing talent and eye for detail – you follow the camera, not as an audience member but as an omniscient character in the film watching Mildred Hayes’ life unfold.

The small bits of hope from the characters are surprising as much as they are beautiful – scenes such as someone simply handing over a glass of orange juice to a burn victim or a police officer trying to regain not only justice but also faith in himself, show that humanity is not completely lost, despite the devastating events.

The strong language, although not unusual, is occasionally quite sharp – particularly for a certificate of 15. Although the language and violence heightens the film, making it not only more realistic but also more dramatic, it is sometimes unwelcoming and piercing, and not always necessary.

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Mildred (Frances McDormand) and Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell) face
each other head on as they enter a battle for justice. © Fox Searchlight Pictures

The ending of the film offers very little resolution for the audience. However, any possible ending was never going to be straightforward; the characters attempting to overcome hate, grief and pride were always going to be difficult. Nonetheless, Martin McDonagh creates a truly magnificent piece of cinema that resonates with you, even hours after you’ve left the darkened cinema.


Words by Isabella Packer

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