Three reasons to see Three Billboards...
Blimey! Sometimes you go and see a film and wonder what all the hype and the overexcited reviews were all about. Then sometimes, you go and see a film and discover that the hype and the overexcited reviews were all absolutely spot on. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, is one of those films.
Quite aside from having the most original title of any film I can remember (and by the way, entirely self-explanatory. The story centres around three billboards on a road into the town of Ebbing in the state of Missouri. Which is apparently in the American mid-West and where Kansas City and St Louis are, for any of you who might not have known that. I certainly didn’t until I googled it)
Anyway, I digress.
Back to the film. And what a film it is. Powered by a tour-de-force performance by Frances McDormand as Mildred Hayes, whose daughter has been raped and murdered and who is, to put it mildly, unhappy that there has been no progress in the police investigation in the months since it happened.
How she takes matters into her own hands - by hiring three billboards just outside town and pasting on them a provocative, to say the least, message addressed at police chief William Willoughby, played by Woody Harrelson - and the events that spiral from that, are delivered in a film that makes you gasp, laugh, cry and unexpectedly root for characters that are often deeply unsympathetic (step forward racist, bully police officer Jason Dixon played with brilliant believability by Sam Rockwell).
Mildred is uncompromising, unapologetic and frankly at times virtually unhinged. But you don’t just understand and sympathise with her, you practically cheer her on in her quest to get justice for her murdered daughter. It’s no wonder Frances McDormand has swept the awards boards so far. I can’t see anyone beating her to the Oscar.
None of the characters - from the put-upon but essentially deeply decent police chief who hides a tragic secret, to Mildred’s violent ex-husband who is now shacked-up with an air-headed 19 year old, is two-dimensional. They all reveal histories, behaviours and sides to their personalities that challenge our views of them over and over.
Better still, although it appears to be heading that way, there’s no pat, Hollywood, neatly-tie-up-the-ends ending. You’re kept second-guessing to the very last frame.
What a ride.
So why should you see it (you mean you’re not convinced already)?
1 You’ll leave the cinema drained and more than a little shell-shocked. But brilliantly entertained too.
2 It’s a film centred around a main female character who’s unlike any you’ve ever encountered
3 Its humour is as dark as can be, but it makes you laugh out loud