Film Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri


It takes a certain kind of filmmaker to take a story about something as grim as a grieving mother struggling to cope with the brutal murder of her teenage daughter and turn it into a film which is not only powerful, but more often than not a highly entertaining watch. That's just what the team behind Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has managed to do, and the result is something quite unique, and utterly brilliant.

Frances McDormand stars as Mildred in arguably a career best; earlier this week she won the 2018 Golden Globe for Leading Actress, and she is a favourite for the rest of the awards season.

Frustrated by the shocking lack of investigative police action following the rape and murder of her teenage daughter, tough-as-nails Mildred takes things into her own hands, taking out advertising on three billboards just outside the small town in which she lives, demanding answers of the Chief of Police.

Woody Harrelson is customarily excellent as the personable - despite his failure thus far to make any arrest - Chief Willoughby who is sympathic, notwithstanding Mildred's very public challenge. He has a harder time reigning in his second-in-command Officer Dixon (played to perfection by acting genius Sam Rockwell) who has a penchant for bouts of aggressive temper, and doesn't take too kindly to being made a fool of in front of his community.

As Mildred consumes herself with the new battle she is waging through the billboards, her teenage son, who survives his sister, tries to make his mother face the home truths she hasn't yet been able to.

What makes this film so singularly superb is the way the filmmakers have so mastered black comedy. Above all else, this film is funny, and Mildred is a character the likes of which we haven't seen enough of on screen; unapologetic, ballsy, determined, a strong believer in justice, and all this communicated through some of the most powerfully sarcastic speech you've ever heard.

I can't say how much I enjoy films that are this refreshing - the kind of thing which lingers in the back of your mind for ages afterwards. All I can say... go see it. If not just to see one of the main contenders for the awards season this year, see it because I can guarantee it will be unlike anything you've ever seen before.

In UK cinemas 12 January.

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