Mildred Hayes, there’s a name you won’t forget in a hurry. Frances McDormand is a hurricane of no-nonsense that’ll not so much sweep the awards season, as tear it up, kicking the Academy square in the balls.
Martin McDonagh returns to a world of hard-as-nails, yet complex and vulnerable protagonists, and upending one’s expectations. Seven months after her daughter was horrifically raped and murdered, Mildred Hayes emblazons the roadside billboards of the title with signs taunting police chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) about the lack of arrests. This opens a whole can of worms on the townsfolk. Beneath the cracker caricatures, however, even Ebbing’s most apparently unsympathetic residents, specifically Sam Rockwell, have complex lives and motivations.
Three Billboards feels like high-intensity comedy circuit training; causing strains in ethical muscles you didn’t even know you had. It is a film that continually forces you to question your own reactions: is it okay to laugh at this bit; is it okay to cry here? Thanks to McDonagh and his livewire star, Three Billboards is a renegade western, and a masterpiece that will leave its mark for years to come. (research Jack Whiting)
It previewed triumphantly at the Rex for our 13th anniversary in December.