3 Billboards outside of Ebbing, Missouri Review

3 Billboards outside of Ebbing, Missouri

Grief is a terrible thing.

Yet Martin McDonagh, the man behind In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, has managed to turn grief into a terribly funny thing in his latest film, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Which is no mean feat.

Mildred is a woman on a mission, and that mission is to get the police of Ebbing, Missouri to take her daughter’s death a little more seriously.

It’s been almost a year since Angela was raped and murdered while walking into town, and Sherriff Willoughby and his fellow officers are no closer to finding the culprit of this heinous crime.

Desperate from the loss of her daughter and latent impotency of her local police, Mildred sells her estranged husband’s tractor to pay for advertising space on a trio of billboards close to where she lives.

And what Mildred puts on these boards is sure to light a fire under our Sherriff’s boots.

It’s not the only fire that gets lit in Ebbing though, as Mildred’s actions have consequences that reach far beyond herself and her own pain.

I first saw Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri at this year’s London Film Festival, where its brilliant dialogue and dark comedy marked it out as the highlight of the event.

Having seen McDonagh’s film again since, it’s even more impressive than I first thought.

As fans of the Irish auteur have come to expect, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri is hilarious.

But the story he tells through this film, the characterisation of his three leads – played by Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell – and the juxtaposition of their pain and hurt with genuinely laugh out loud moments makes Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri McDonagh’s best film yet.

And it’s got some tough competition for that honour.

The ensemble cast are quite brilliant, as you’d expect when you pair actors like McDormand and Harrelson with a Martin McDonagh script.

But the star of the show is Rockwell, everyone’s second favourite actor who is in serious danger of knocking that ‘second’ part off of this moniker.

Rockwell’s police officer Dixon starts off as little more than light comic relief, a space the american actor is more than comfortable with – in fact, I like to think of Sam as the new Bill Murray.

And you don’t get much higher praise in my book than that.

But the unexpected journey his character goes on, and the way Rockwell inhabits this, is going to lead to a lot of nominations for this highly underrated actor.

In fact, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri is going to be getting a lot of love come awards season, and it’ll deserve everything that comes its way.

None more so than Martin McDonagh, whose deft storytelling and light touch of horribly difficult and complex themes are worthy of recognition.

Grief is a terrible thing, and unfortunately there’s no cure for such pain.

But if you’re looking for a distraction, you won’t find many better than Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Except maybe crack… at least, that’s what I’ve heard.

Jonathan Campbell

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Dates ‘n stuff

December 2017