I think it’s fair to say that the trailer for Three Billboards outside of Ebbing, Missouri has been the most watched trailer, by me, of the last few years. Not since Jaws on DVD have I been so excited for a film release and, of course, appropriating this level of expectation toward anything only ends two ways – disappointingly or euphorically. I am pleased to report that the closing night gala presentation on Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri was a riotous, emotional, triumphant screening. I can’t wait to watch it again and oh, Frances, if you don’t get the Oscar then there’s no justice in Hollywood. Oh, hang on…
Mildred Hayes is a middle-aged woman living with her son in Ebbing, Missouri. Mildred works in a gift shop has a pretty low-key existence. Oh yes, and her young daughter Angela was recently raped, murdered and set on fire. No one has been arrested and there are reports of police brutality from the local Police Department. Mildred decides to take matters into her own hands and hires three billboard so the stretch of road Angela was murdered (outside Ebbing Missouri funnily enough). On these billboards she questions the competency of the local police in trying to catch Angela’s killer and points the figure squarely at the police Chief Willoughby. The problem Mildred has is that the chief is widely liked. Oh yes and he’s dying of cancer. To say the town doesn’t like Mildred’s billboards are like saying Americans don’t like donuts – it’s a massive understatement; but no one could have quite predicted the carnage that follows, it’s a veritable fireball.
Oh Martin McDonough. How I love this film. It is saying so so very much that is absolutely necessary to be said right now. This is certainly the only closing gala screening I’ve been too where the audience spontaneously burst into applause. Indeed there are many things to applaud in Three Billboards, the writing is perfection, the directing is faultless but all of this would still be merely admirable if it wasn’t in the hands of this extraordinary cast who take those pulchritudinous words and make them soar into something that transcends poetry and become brutal and unforgettable. At the beating heart of this phenomenal ensemble is of course Francis McDormand. Her Mildred Hayes is a heart breaking, ball breaking, foul mouthed, angry, and intelligent, and scorched ball of womanhood. Mildred takes all the sympathy the town has for her and throws it into a fire and forces the town to look good and hard at themselves, and she has to have a good hard look at herself too. Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Abbie Cornish, Lucas Hedges, Caleb Landry Jones, Peter Dinklage, Zelkjo Ivanek, Amanda Warren, John Hawkes, Clark Peters. This is a cast that must be named as they are all perfection.
Three Billboards could easily have carried on down this revenge driven angry saga but at some point it McDonough brilliantly makes the film swivel on its heels and characters we were once ready to hate are garnering the full glare of our sympathy. Dark, sagacious, sprightly witty, clever, urgent and important. I can’t think of a more significant or accomplished film I’ve seen of late. I loved it and I think you will too.