Written and Directed by: Martin McDonagh
Produced by: Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin, Martin McDonagh
Executive Producers: Bergen Swanson, Diarmuid McKeown, Rose Garnett, David
Kosse, Daniel Battsek
Starring: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Abbie Cornish, Peter
Dinklage, Lucas Hedges, John Hawkes, Caleb Landry Jones, Sandy Martin.
Not since 1986 have I applauded out loud, in a packed cinema, for a movie that blew me away with the dynamic force of its female lead and its nuanced emotional and moral rollercoaster, of great cinematic story.
Eight years ago, English/Irish, playwright/filmmaker, Martin McDonagh, wrote Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri in one single draft. A third film after the slow burning cult success of, In Bruges and the darkly twisted, Seven Psychopaths.
The narrative tightrope of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is taut and confronting, pathos rich, in equal parts both tragic and hilariously funny.
Within ten minutes you will think you have sized up all the characters but you will be completely unprepared for what McDonagh does next.
The story opens with Mildred (Frances McDormand) her terrible grief has no tears left as she stands beneath three newly pasted billboards, billboards she has hired, billboards that witnessed the rape, murder and torching of her teenage daughter Angela, seven months earlier.
Since then there have been no arrests and the local police department have no leads.
Unable to accept the paralysis of her grief and fueled by fury, Mildred embodies the fight or die quality of a lone cowboy making a last stand against the local police and emblazons what must be the largest victim of violence impact statement and directs its lethal force at the town’s much loved, Chief of Police, Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson).
Raped while dying
And still no arrests?
How come Chief Willoughby?
There is no word for the place that Mildred is left in the English language as the parent of a dead child.
When a child loses a parent, they are an orphan. When a parent loses a child, there is no word.
Mildred’s relentless rage, blows apart the small town, minding-everyone’s-business, complicit charm of Ebbing, Missouri.
When shooting Three Billboards, McDormand to intensify the combative fury and isolation she would bring to the screen and her fellow cast, McDormand kept herself isolated, only seeing the cast at shooting.
And it worked.
McDormand is simply outstanding in this role. Simply dressed in one commando-like-overall with barely no facial expression, her seething and impact are latent and volatile and you just know that her lethal cocktail of fury, grief and a sense that justice has not been served, will suffer no prisoners.
In a quote worthy scene, Mildred strides into the Police Station – her town popularity at the bottom of the heap, oblivious to a herd of police mulling about, she calls out to Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell) – a cop we’ve already sized up as the worst kind – a cop that is racist, stupid and armed.
‘Hey fuckhead!’ says Mildred.
‘What?’ says Dixon.
‘Don’t say what, Dixon, when she comes in calling you fuckhead’ says a Policeman.
McDonagh’s script is peppered, rich with racial taboos, social taboos, humanity. His characters, dark in pathos, humour and humanity. As a master storyteller, McDonagh’s skill is in serving up humour as a cathartic release after scenes heavy in tragic sadness.
Dixon tells Mildred, they don’t do “n– — r torturing” no more but “persons-of- color torturing”.
In a packed cinema we gasp together, in horror at Dixon’s racism and in a packed cinema, we laugh out loud, together at his stupidity.
The power of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is in its straightforward truths.
There are no ambiguous wonderings. We are served a plate full of raw humanity and we love it. We recognize the truth of our shared humanity, all our shades of despair, rage, tragedy and ultimately our ability to use humour from that dark place to release tenderness, hope and redemption.