Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MissouriVenice Film Festival 2017
In Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Frances McDormand gives a phenomenal performance, so powerful and convincing it would be impossible not to expect at least a nomination from the Academy next February. Martin McDonagh’s latest picture is a step (or two) up from Seven Psychopaths and In Bruges; the “smart, razor-sharp black comedy” label doesn’t fit any longer. While it’s not a complete departure from his previous work, Three Billboards is profoundly dramatic, and cinematically bordering on the epic.
Mildred (McDormand) is a mother who lost her daughter (Kathryn Newton) in the most horrific way: she was raped and murdered. The case gets stuck and, to draw the police force’s attention, she rents out three huge billboards outside Ebbing to deliver a daring message to the sheriff, William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson). As the tension rises, the town’s violence and racism awaken.
McDonagh will – and should be – praised for the near-perfect script: a series of dialogues that seamlessly click and make the audience feel not only engaged but also clever. The film is solid and striking as much as its protagonist is; it’s a very American story that anyone can relate to, with Western-like confrontational moments between the raging mother and the uncooperative people who live around her. Inspired by a similar array of billboards he saw 20 years ago while travelling through the US, the British filmmaker had McDormand in mind while he wrote the script, which marks the first time he has a female lead for one of his pictures.
Woody Harrelson’s acting and accent naturally belong to this “small town America” realm, however, apart from the obvious protagonist, it’s Sam Rockwell who steals the show with his obnoxious character whose path will challenge and impress the movie goers. It’s not all acting and script though, Three Billboards is directed with the touch of an auteur but the consistency of a mainstream director. Basically, it’s a film that found the balance.
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is released nationwide on 12th January 2018.
Watch the trailer for Three Billboards here: