Slough Cooperative Film Society Slough Cooperative Film Society

The Society has been showing the best of world and independent cinema in Slough for 70 years

 

19th June 2018 DATCHET VILLAGE HALL

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

USA/UK 115 mins Cert.15


Three Billboards poster
Mildred Hayes Frances McDormand Director Martin McDonagh
Sheriff Willoughby Woody Harrelson Screenplay Martin McDonagh
Officer Dixon Sam Rockwell Cinematographer Ben Davis
Red Welby Caleb Landry Jones Editor Jon Gregory
James
Robbie Hayes
Charlie
Peter Dinklage
Lucas Hedges
John Hawkes
Music Charles Burwell

Writer-director Martin McDonagh is on blistering form with this fiendishly clever personal drama, which arrives masquerading as a funny, violent police thriller. With take-no-prisoners performances from the entire cast, particularly a storming Frances McDormand, the film tackles our angry world head-on with a surprisingly heartfelt plea for compassion. And it approaches the riveting story and pungent themes with remarkable honesty.

Seven months after her daughter was violently murdered, Mildred takes out three billboards on the road into town, asking Sheriff Willoughby why there have been no arrests. Coping with cancer, Willoughby thoughtfully considers her action, but his hot-headed deputy Dixon takes out his anger on the ad salesman and anyone else in his way. But then, aside from James who has a crush on her, most townsfolk don't like Mildred ruffling feathers like this. Her teen son Robbie certainly has his doubts, but stands by her as tension escalates.

As before, McDonagh seamlessly combines jagged comedy, dark emotions and startling violence. Everyone acts without thinking, sparking a nasty feud. These people act on feelings, paying little attention to what's going on, and McDonagh mines this situation for both telling personal details and larger themes. For example, Dixon has a reputation as a cop who tortures and kills black suspects, but the script deals with this in ways that are provocative, positive and moving.

Through all of this, McDormand's Mildred lets her passion get the best of her. Her heart is in the right place, but her emotions are running wild. So the way she interacts with everyone is hilariously but knowingly prickly. Her scenes with Harrelson are particularly strong, as Harrelson infuses scenes with a sense of catharsis. In the end, Rockwell's Dixon emerges as perhaps the true protagonist with a powerfully engaging journey that continually takes turns he never sees coming.

The way the film tackles its darker undertones is so astute that the audience is both entertained and shaken. We can identify with something in each character, including side roles like Dinklage as a lovelorn car salesman or Hawkes as Mildred's blustering ex. Everyone is doing the best they can, with whatever cards they have been dealt. And some of them just need a little reminder that their myopic worldview is obscuring the bigger, better truths about what's really happening around them. And that adopting compassion for everyone is always the right approach.

Rich Cline at www.shadowsonthewall.co.uk