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[Review] – “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

 
 
Overview
 

Release Date: 1 December 2017 [USA]
 
Director: Martin McDonagh
 
Writer: Martin McDonagh
 
Cast: Frances McDormand - Woody Harrelson - Sam Rockwell
 


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Posted February 11, 2018 by

 
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Review:

With the Academy Awards slowly approaching (Sunday, March the 4th), I have sparked up my usual goal of trying to see all of the Best Picture nominees, but haven’t got so far yet. One I have seen, however, is one that will stay with me for a long time – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Martin McDonagh’s dark comic-drama focuses on Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand), a grieving mother who rents three billboards on a road outside her town to challenge the police about the rape and murder of her teenage daughter. The plot alone sounds simple, albeit quite dry, yet somehow the film manages to encapsulate your attention for two hours and drag you into a raw world of grief and revenge, making me laugh one minute and cry the next.

As soon as I left the cinema, I asked my friend – ‘What genre would you even say that was?’. The advertising campaign and synopsis presented a dark film focused on redemption, so I was not expecting to be laughing throughout upon sitting down in my cinema seat. My expectations of this film were completely turned on their heads, and the audience behind me seemed to feel this too – shocked gasps and sniffling noses were present throughout, but also raucous eruptions of laughter which made for such an electric viewing experience. However, upon later discussing the film with friends, I realised the humour is not for everyone – when you see a film which hits your sense of humour spot on, it is hard to think that anyone could not find it amusing, but whilst the dark humour in the film was risky, it paid off for me. I was fully immersed in the film’s place and time, and truly felt for the characters – an aspect directly linked to the amazing performances from the cast.

If only one performance within this film could be praised, it would have to be Frances McDormand’s portrayal of Mildred Hayes. McDormand’s ability to capture sorrow, anger and strength made for an extremely raw and emotional performance, and the level of verisimilitude in her performance truly convinces you that her character currently lives out in Missouri. With the hype around the Best Actress Academy Award swirling around McDormand, I couldn’t think of a more deserving performance. Yet up against the other nominees, including Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water and Meryl Streep in The Post, it is too early to say who will walk away victorious. However, other performances in the film also hit the mark in delivering exceptional performances, including Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell (also nominated for Academy Awards in Best Supporting Actor) as Chief Willoughby and Officer Dixon, and Caleb Landry Jones as Red Whelby – all contributing to the phenomenal cast, and making the film the success that it is.

Another aspect of the film which stood out was the incredible soundtrack, composed mainly by Carter Burwell – a musician who has composed all of McDonagh’s films, including In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, and really gives Three Billboards a dynamic, energetic score. Similarly, McDonagh’s dialogue is sharp and delivers a wit which we have come to associate with his films – whilst In Bruges stays a cult favourite, maybe the growing success of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri will be his highest-grossing movie to date.

Whatever the outcome is, I strongly believe that this film deserves all of the praise. Some viewers have loved it, and some have hated it, but all I see is a film of highly creative skill and genius – the range of emotions, the complexity of the seemingly simple narrative, the depth of characters and ability to create a microcosm in which we are immersed for two hours really stands out for me, and makes Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri my film of 2018 – we’re off to a good start.

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Lyndsay Townsend
@LyndsayT99
Freelance Contributor

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