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Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri - A darkly comical take on serious subject matters.

by Roisin Gordon. Published Thu 01 Feb 2018 22:06

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri explores subject matters that has a serious and heavy tone such as loss, grief and vengeance, but adds a darkly humorous edge that results in a refreshing yet touching story, which is strengthened by the raw performances from its astounding cast.

The story follows Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) who is determined to get justice for her daughter’s murder, after months have passed and the police haven’t found the culprit.

To get the attention of the local police, Mildred makes the bold move to have the three billboard signs leading into her town, painted with a controversial message aimed at Chief William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), whom she blames for the lack of justice.

As you would imagine, the billboards cause a large reaction from the townsfolk as well as the local police, causing a battle between Mildred and the law to grow as she refuses to back down and butts heads with those who try to disagree with her, particularly with the brash and immature Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell).

The story balances the drama and dark humor genres so effortlessly, that creates a rollercoaster of emotion that has you laughing one moment and then feeling sad the next.

The hard hitting subject matters can make it feel heavy but doesn’t gloss over the gritty aspects of the script, yet the comedic moments feel natural to the characters motivations which creates such an honest and refreshing yet sincere approach to the story.

It doesn’t play off as a typical murder-mystery film with an obvious villain where they connect the dots and solve the case by the end, but rather a story about a mother coming to terms with her grief and loss and her battle with the law for justice.

You become invested in Mildred’s journey, as she deals with her own grief and tries to make sense of what has happened, as well as the lengths she goes to find answers and justice for what happened to her daughter, even if it does push boundaries.

She is very much a flawed character which is highlighted as we get to know her more as the film progresses, as she fights against anyone who tries to stand in her way or calm down her brash methods of getting the attention.

This includes a scene where she visits the dentist who is friends with Chief Willoughby, and when he starts to question her, she responds by drilling into his thumbnail.

Through arguments with her son and ex-husband, it we learn that Mildred hasn’t always been a perfect mother. Even a flashback scene shows us that the last interaction between Mildred and her daughter was a heated argument where she threatened to leave home.

Despite the dark comedy and serious tones, the film does have some touching moments, including when Mildred is planting a memorial for her daughter near the billboards and comes across a deer who she believes to have her daughter’s spirit and talks to the deer as if it truly was her.

Frances McDormand brings such a tenacity and sincerity to the role of Mildred, capturing both the heartbreak and stubbornness of the grieving mother trying to make sense of everything that’s happened. You sympathise with her in wanting to take action, to bring justice for what happened to her daughter, but you also question whether she is taking things too far.

McDormand’s comedic timing was spot on, with her no-nonsense attitude and quick witted, foul mouthed put downs, especially seeing how it was so different to her role as Marge Gunderson in Fargo.

Sam Rockwell gave an equally entertaining performance as Officer Dixon, especially through the outbursts of his hot-tempered and easily provoked character and how he butts heads with McDormand’s character.

As the film progresses, it shows that he is more of a misguided character and starts to go down a path of redemption, which is more or less on the same path as Mildred as he goes about finding answers.

Woody Harrelson gives a respectable performance as Chief Willoughby, whose calm nature contrasts greatly with Rockwell’s character.

You are prepared to criticize the character, through Mildred’s anger at him for the lack of justice yet through his scenes with McDormand, you feel a sense of honesty and sincerity from him as it shows that he is genuinely sympathetic towards Mildred’s anger towards him and wants to catch the culprit as well.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a refreshing and darkly comical story that provides incredible performances from its cast.

Purple Revolver Rating: 5/5- Darkly comical


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