Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

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15 | 1h 55min | | 12 January 2018 (UK)

This is a dark film dealing with big issues.
Mildred Hayes (Frances McDonagh) is a mother whose daughter was raped and murdered.
One year on and the police have made no progress and have no leads.
She hires three billboards to call out the police and the popular Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) on their inability to catch the killer. Mildred is forthright in her views telling the local news channel: “My daughter Angela was murdered 7 months ago, it seems to me the police department is too busy torturing black folk to solve actual crimes.” She’s a tough woman with a fractured heart and she is angry. Very, very, angry.
You can feel the pain emanating from Mildred. We aren’t invited to sympathise with her, but you can’t help but understand the pain she is enduring and understand the drive she has for revenge, not just on the unknown killer, but on the community and institutions that don’t seem to care. That’s the root of her decision to hire the billboards.
This act has many consequences and shines a light on the divisions, hypocrisy and narrow mindedness of the small community. Most of the community don’t like the billboards and want Mildred to shut-up. They try to pressure and bully her into taking the boards down. They also put pressure on the agency that hired her the boards.
The local police are an unlovely bunch. Their Chief says that if he sacked all the racist cops in his force he’d have a handful left and they would all hate “fags”. One of these racist Cops, Dixon (Sam Rockwell), does all in his power to disrupt the billboard campaign and his violence and crude hatred are difficult to stomach. As his character develops, however, you start to have some sympathy with him for what has made him what he is and the fact that he is strong enough to begin to change. The way Dixon is developed shows how nuanced the film is.
Mildred comes over as one determined lady. She has suffered domestic abuse, the death of her daughter and virtually a whole town that hates her. Her allies, like her, aren’t at the centre of the community, they have little power and are marginalised and ill-treated.
There’s a lot of profanity in this film and the violence is raw but it is a story that is telling a truth.
There are excellent performances from the cast, and the film picked up four Golden Globe awards including Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor.
It also has an evocative American based soundtrack.

 

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

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