Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is way up there in quality. As in way, way, up there. My second favourite film I’ve seen all year, and only the second review that’s getting a perfect 5/5. It’s the latest from writer-director Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Seven Psychopahths), and it’s worth all of the accolades it’s getting and more. If you haven’t already seen the trailer, do yourself a favour and get on it – because I guarantee you’ll come out wanting to watch this movie.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri starts off about a mother, Francis McDormand (Fargo, Almost Famous), whose daughter has been violently murdered, and her struggle with the local police department in an effort to keep the case in the public eye. So she rents three billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri, calling out the Chief of Police on why there have been no arrests. Going into this film has you pumped just based on the premise and the brilliant dialogue and delivery of these writers and actors, but what really makes Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri rise above the rest is that about halfway through, the film takes a turn and becomes about a slightly different thing – and it’s really, really well done. It takes a great script, and becomes a brilliant script. It’s unpredictable, interesting and exceptionally written.
The performances in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri cannot be overstated. Francis McDormand is captivating as Mildred Hayes, Woody Harrelson (War for the Planet of the Apes, True Detective) is great, as per usual, but the incredible performance and arc captured by Sam Rockwell (Moon, Seven Psychopaths) elevates this film and the entire ensemble to a whole other level. I’m also going to shout out Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea, Lady Bird), Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones, X-Men: Days of Future Past) and Caleb Landry Jones (Get Out, X-Men: First Class) for rounding out a captivating, enigmatic ensemble.
Where this film shines is in treading the very delicate yet so truthful line between grief and humour. It’s such a human thing to do to go back and forth between the laugher and the tears, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri exists almost entirely in that space in a spectacularly touching fashion, with a message that subverts and elevates the audience that went into it expecting one thing, and might’ve come out with another.
That’s also, however, where some people might not be as enthralled as I, the first time I saw this film, the ending was somewhat anticlimactic, almost. I didn’t leave feeling short-changed, just not what I expected. Upon reflection though, and after a second viewing, the ending grows on your more and more. It’s inviting you to really ask yourself, to look inwards, and to challenge yourself with the premise and morals the story is putting forward.
The only other thing I’d change are a few small scenes with Francis McDormand talking to her slippers, or some local fauna, in an endearing sort of way. It feels a little too much like a technique to help give you insight into a woman who doesn’t have many vulnerable moments, but McDormand’s acting is so inspiring she achieves that mix of strength and vulnerability so expertly on her own. Just the way she says her son’s name, in one specific scene I won’t ruin but you’ll know it when you see it – pulls piles out of your heart and makes you feel for this woman.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri will be showing in Australian Cinemas from New Year’s Day. Get out, watch this ASAP. If you can’t get to a cinema, check for when it’s available to rent. Write it down, look for it on Netflix, on Stan, I don’t care. However you do it, watch this movie, and take the time to appreciate it.
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