Thanks to20th Century Fox we had the chance to see Three Billboards in Epping, Missouri. This is our review of the movie, but as usual, no matter what we say, we still recommend you to go and see it at your local cinema because there is no better critic than yourself!
Three Billborads is the third film for Irish writer-director, Martin McDonagh, following the cult success of In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths. The film continues McDonagh’s trademark use of dark humour to explore a number of prevalent tropes that have defined 2017.
In fact, it can easily be argued that Three Billboards is the defining film of 2017 (despite its release being New Year’s Day, 2018), for the brutal and unapologetic manner in which it deals with topics that have plagued 2017 – particularly in America; including racial harassment by police, domestic abuse, sexual harassment and the uprising of strong females standing up against the establishment.
The premise follows protagonist Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand – Fargo) who erects a series of billboards on a seemingly isolated stretch of road. The boards are aimed at antagonising the local police department – particularly Sheriff Willoughby played by Woody Harrelson – into solving the grisly rape and murder of her daughter, Angela (Kathryn Newton – Big Little Lies).
Mildred’s no-nonsense, ballsy approach to finding the murderer of her child is unpopular with the town and a series of run-ins ensue that are hilarious and poignant.
Whilst those that have seen McDonagh’s work previously may expect Mildred to embark on a rampage that is equal parts comedy and violence, which she does to some degree, Three Billboards is a much more human tale from the director that always has something unexpected for the audience.
Through the character of Dixon, the film tries to explore the idea of police brutality and racism, and the lack of accountability – but ends up trying to make out that he’s not a bad guy after all. McDormand’s character on the other hand is developed as a strong independent woman on a mission, but she succumbs to domestic violence from her ex-husband showing that she’s still vulnerable. However, it’s the aftermath that she seems to forgive the ex-husband and Dixon so easily that undoes much of the McDonagh’s work to this point.
Whilst the film tries to deal with a series of serious topics prevalent in 2017, it loses its way mid-way through dropping much of the humour and taking a strange stance on the idea of forgiveness.
However, it’s difficult to argue with the level of talent on display in Three Billboards cast. McDormand is unquestionably the star of the film and the role puts her in line for another Oscar in 2018.
But it’s Sam Rockwell as the racist, alcoholic, shambolic Deputy Dixon that really shines in a performance that is undeniably his best for years. It’s so good, that it makes the audience look past the references to police brutality and racism that plague the character throughout, and makes him seem misunderstood, caring and simply a product of a broken home – leaving the audience feeling strangely drawn to him.
Three Billboards is a powerful commentary on the current state of the society that gets the balance of humour and violence right for half the film, but then loses itself in the second half as the director tries to make a statement on forgiveness that seems tone-deaf given events of the last year.
Three Billboards in Epping, Missouri – In Cinemas New Year’s Day