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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Monday June 15, 2020 


SYNOPSIS: A mother (Frances McDormand) personally challenges the local authorities to solve her daughter's murder when they fail to catch the culprit.

Review by Louise Keller:
Anger and reconciliation are the themes of this hard-hitting drama from Martin McDonagh, who has created a bold, dark and confronting film with motley characters that form a wild microcosm. There are some dashes of black humour, but it's not as funny as McDonagh's earlier film, In Bruges. Three Billboards is far darker. But there is an undeniable emotional energy that emanates from the characters - both in the writing and performance by an exceptional cast. It's not the kind of film that you 'enjoy' but a film that keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout. The mood is raw and uncompromising. At times, it's savage.

The sound of Renee Fleming's The Last Rose of Summer offers a tranquil mood in the film's opening scene, but the calm is momentary. As Frances McDormand's central character Mildred spies the three barren billboards on the side of 'a road no-one goes down', her plan to provoke action to find her daughter's killer is hatched. McDormand is a force with which to be reckoned as the grieving mother desperate for the law to take its course. Fearless and lacking in vanity, she grabs this gift of a role and delivers an unforgettable performance. We feel her pain, angst, frustration and impotence. 'Looks like we got a war on our hands' Woody Harrelson's police chief Willoughby mutters, as the town prickles at the confrontation.

One of the great things about McDonagh's characters is that they are not predictable. With one exception, noone is black or white. Look out for Sam Rockwell as Dixon, the racist, dim-witted police officer with the domineering mother. He is superb. It is the relationships between these three characters that form the heart of the film.

McDonagh explores all the relationships: between Mildred and ex-husband (John Hawkes, wonderfully seedy), son (Lucas Hedges), the billboard ad salesman (Caleb Landry Jones) and the town midget (Peter Dinklage). The dinner scene with Dinklage is one of the film's funniest.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It's his audacity that is so engaging, well displayed in his iconic In Bruges, as Martin McDonagh creates characters and situations - or rather, characters in situations - that are in themselves dramatic and entertaining at the same time. He smudges the fine distinction between comedy and tragedy so that we never quite settled into any comfort zone. He is clever to cast astutely, too, because he needs special types of actors to deliver his high wire act - and his choices in this film are sublime.

Frances McDormand is one of the ballsiest female actors around, while Woody Harrelson is the perfect foil for her character as the sympathetic cop who is the target of her attack, innocent though he is of incompetence. But these are just the tips of the relationship icebergs McDonagh floats at us. Each character is a complex mess and so is the town.

Rich in detail yet simple in concept, Three Billboards confirms McDonagh as the most interesting maker of dark films outside, say, Scandinavia?

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(US, 2017)

CAST: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Caleb Landry Jones, Kerry Condon, Abbie Cornish, Riya May Atwood, Selah Atwood, Peter Dinklage, John Hawkes,

PRODUCER: Martin McDonagh

DIRECTOR: Martin McDonagh

SCRIPT: Martin McDonagh


EDITOR: Jon Gregory

MUSIC: Carter Burwell


RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes



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