A masterclass in ‘Tragi-Comedy’ (Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri review)

Okay, I know how much overwhelmingly positive press there has been about this film, and I hate to just repeat what others have said, but my God, this film really is fantastic.

‘Three Billboards’ tells the story of Mildred Hayes, a mother who is grieving over her daughter’s unsolved rape and murder. She decides that she will put up three billboards asking Police Chief Willoughby why after a year the case still hadn’t been solved. The film then steams ahead as anger, love and hatred all come to light. This black-comedy film is a sublime showcase of raw emotion and as with all of Martin McDonagh’s films (specifically ‘In Bruges’), the tragedy is just as impactful as the comedy.

The major factor to mastering this emotion is the superb performances from the three main leads, all three of whom individually managed to get me to shed a tear. Francis McDormand plays Mildred with such a dislikable feisty nature, and yet the pity we feel for her is overwhelming. Similarly, Sam Rockwell’s performance as racist cop Officer Jason Dixon also manages to magically skirt along the hate/pity line. Playing Chief Willoughby himself is Woody Harrelson, and it is mainly down to his character that makes us dislike Mildred Hayes. He is apologetic and understanding of Mildred, while also hindered by a personal problem that I won’t spoil here. All three of the flawed characters who are neither all good, nor all bad, add to a properly funny, but moreover tragic piece.

The screenplay too is a work of gold. The dialogue is coarse and hard hitting, with many lines hitting you right in the gut. The amount of swearing was slightly too much in my mind, but again, this is a McDonagh film, and 8/10 times the swearing added to the comedy, character and emotion. The story enjoys many twists and turns, while maintaining such a great grasp on reality and the emotions of the characters.

As I stated at the start, all that I have just said is simply repeating the masses of praise this film has already received. It more than deserves all the awards it received at the Golden Globes, and I’m in no doubt that it will enjoy several more generous helpings of awards at the BAFTAs and Oscars.

10 Stars

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