Film Review – Three Billboards Near Ebbing Missouri (2017)

‘Masterpiece’ is a word that gets easily thrown around in the film world. Many cinephiles are very quick to label those films ‘masterpieces’ and demonise those who don’t agree with them. There is films that deserve the label , others like Martin McDonagh‘s Three Billboards Near Ebbing Missouri (2017) don’t. Not a terrible film but a flawed tragi-comedy only saved by the grand performances from the main cats.

I could easily write an article or essay on those masterpiece’s, some forget film is for us all. Our reasons to enjoy or even dislike is a personal choice. Three Billboards isn’t a masterpiece and that doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve it’s plaudits. When the film was released, it surprised many when it picked up several awards including The BAFTA’s, Gold Globes as well as The Oscars. The awards are off course great for promotion.

Three Billboards Near Ebbing Missouri is set in the small Missouri town of Ebbing, a place that all the locals know each other and probably their business too. Many months have passed since Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) daughter was murdered and no culprit found or even charged. Mildred decides to take matters into her own hands and rents billboards just outside the town. Painting a controversial message about things directed towards the town’s sheriff, William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson). Willoughby himself frustrated how things have been going at the same time fighting his own personal battles. The townsfolk themselves support their revered chief of police including his own deputy Dixon (Sam Rockwell) who takes things very personally. Getting involved in the battle when things get exacerbated.

McDonagh’s is trying to be a full on Coen Brothers dark dramedy and there’s nothing wrong with that. However the execution , the jokes to match that claim fall apart or simply become too repetitive.

What divided audiences and critics was the handling of Dixon, who really is nothing more than an angry Mummy’s boy. His mum’s tongue is poisoned and her little boy would rather spend time beating up black men than attempting to solve a crime. Are all small towns in the U.S full of racist, homophobes, sexist backward people stuck in their ways? These inhumans are everywhere towns large and small all around the world.

The film does at times come across a bit immature, from crass midget jokes (especially towards Peter Dinklage‘s character), not forgetting the racist and sexist jibes. McDonagh certainly struck a nerve reminding us the dark side of humanity can be found in every corner of planet.

The one redeeming factor is Frances McDormand who steps up to the challenge. Cursing and blinding, playing that frustrated pissed off woman who just wants justice for her daughter. From the swaying support from the townsfolk towards Willoughby suggests Mildred has been on the warpath too long to a point loosing friends and alienating herself from the one person who understands her pain. Harrelson is equally fantastic at the sheriff, burdened with pain, Rockwell despite his negativity delivers too.

Three Billboards Near Ebbing Missouri is not the hyperbolic masterpiece may wants us to believe it is. A flawed tale that lacks the cutting edge to step up to the claim. Four years after it’s release we could say the film is an cautionary tale, leaving us asking ourselves “Is this film really controversial?” when you look what has happened the past couple of years ?


Comedy, Drama | USA, 2017 | 15 | Searchlight Pictures | Dir.Martin McDonagh | Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Caleb Landry Jones, Peter Dinklage

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