By Ryan Keating-Lambert
Three Billboards is an absolute knockout. A well-balanced and fierce dramedy with a sometimes brutal sense of humour, and packed with powerhouse performances ruled by Queen Frances McDormand, who’s well on her way to Oscar glory.
At her wit’s end, Mildred (Frances McDormand) organises controversial billboards on the outskirts of town that question the progress of her late daughter’s murder case, and point the finger at police chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson).
Directed by Martin McDonagh (In Bruges), Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, let’s just go with ‘Three Billboards’ for short, delivers a brutal tale of extremes. Extreme emotional pain, extreme violence and an extreme sense of humour all flawlessly and wonderfully dished out by McDormand, who’s already received a Golden Globe and a SAG award for her uncompromising performance as the grieving mother.
McDormand and writer/director McDonagh must have played off each other’s talent in this intense, but wholly relatable story of the south. There are ups and there are downs, but we never spend too much time in either. McDonagh touches on themes of grief and loss but never dwells nor milks. I did shed a tear during one particularly turbulent scene, but was soon laughing like a fool once again. This film is the perfect example of a film that tries to be many different things, and actually succeeds.
McDormand’s performance, like the plot, is just so versatile and addictive that it’s tough not to fall victim to Mildred’s ply, even if she is a little contradicting. condescending and even irrational at times. She’s just such a human character.
McDonagh has however, given us a whole range of raw but lovable characters that bring forward a satire fit for the age of Trump. Dumb racist cop Dixon played exquisitely by Sam Rockwell, is a fascinating character and one in which can probably be seen in every town in Missouri, or maybe even every town in the south. Rockwell seems the perfect fit for McDonagh’s writing as the actor was also in his last film Seven Psychopaths, alongside Woody Harrelson.
Harrelson brings a lot of charm as Willoughby and shares a wonderful on-screen chemistry with McDormand. There’s also a number of smaller noteworthy roles including Lucas Hedges as Mildred’s son who more than deserves a movie of his own after this and his breakthrough performance in last year’s Manchester by the Sea. The talented Peter Dinklage, who’s referred to as a midget on more than one occasion, also pops up every now and then to contribute to the funnier parts of the film.
Three Billboards is definitely an in-your-face kind of experience. It doesn’t hold back on its character’s issues with racism and homophobia, and that’s sure to, and already has, ticked some people off. Just remember that this film is satirising characters who more than likely exist in real life and also share the same opinions. People who think the film encourages racism and homophobia are ridiculous, and should probably avoid going to the cinema altogether.
This is going to be one of the best films of the year and definitely has my vote. It’s ingenious from start to finish. Go see it now.