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Film review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

Linda Marric says Martin McDonagh's new movie deserves its Golden Globe triumph

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    Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
    Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Picture: PA)

    Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing,Missouri had well-deserved success at the Golden Globes over the weekend.

    The film is a return to form for the critically acclaimed director and writer whose most recent offering Seven Psychopaths sadly failed to live up to his brilliantly anarchic debut feature In Bruges.

    Starring Frances McDormand as a woman hellbent on seeking the truth about her daughter’s brutal rape and murder, Three Billboards is the kind of expletive-laden black comedy which strikes just the right balance between gut-wrenching despair and hilarious comic timing.

    After waiting for months for her daughter’s killer to be caught and brought to justice, Mildred Hayes (McDormand) names and shames those whom she believes have failed her and her family. Placing three billboards on the the side of the road leading into her small town of Ebbing, Mildred has a message for chief of police William Willoughby (portrayed with playfulness and reserve by Woody Harrelson) demanding to know why the culprit is still at large. Things are exacerbated when Willoughby’s idiotic deputy, Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell) a barely literate, racist, mummy’s boy, goes to war with Mildred over the treatment of his boss.

    McDormand excels in a role clearly developed with her in mind. Mildred is a sweary, brawling matriarch consumed by rage and anger, a hurricane of a woman who will destroy anything that comes between her and her quest for the truth. And Rockwell is truly magnificent as Officer Dixon whom he expertly portrays as a small-minded half-wit who slowly realises that he has bitten off way more than he can chew in confronting Mildred.

    Whilst initially lacking in nuance, McDonagh’s characters are eventually able to grow as we progress throughout the story. His ability to paint these small-town folk as highly strung and complicated in their own ways, is what makes him one of the greatest writers around. While not always hitting the right note when challenging some of his characters’ less than orthodox views, he is still able to offer a morally charged narrative which more than makes up for this oversight.

    Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri not only manage to surpass all expectations of its anarchic tone, but also offers one of the most exhilarating storylines of the year. The film is more than deserving of the accolades being heaped on its cast and director.

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