When it hurts and hurts so good!!. Winning top honors at the BAFTA 2018, THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI, the third feature written and directed by playwright and filmmaker Martin McDonagh (IN BRUGES, SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS) is a masterly constructed voyage of rage, despair, hope and redemption.
The 2006 Academy award winner for the live action short SIX SHOOTER churns an exceptional mix of black humour and intense drama with multi-layered intricacies of rage, grief, feminisms, machismo, and humanity powered by an act of remarkable brilliance by Frances McDormand.
Anger, rage, resentment is an emotion which time and again had fascinated people in different ways. Humans love to pamper it for themselves but hate to find it in others. Cinema around the world had manipulated the themes of rage, grief, and redemption for ages but in a rarest of the rare occasion, we find such an extraordinary swirl of rage that flirts with black humour at will.
Though revenge is the emotion that is constant in the heart and mind of the protagonist Mildred Hayes played by Academy Award winner Frances McDormand (FARGO), Martin McDonagh paints this picture predominantly in dark comic tones that makes you laugh at tense situations from time to time. Finding no development in her daughter’s murder case for months, Mildred Hayes Frances McDormand) creates a sensation by painting three signs leading into her town.
The three billboards painted in red wear three linked messages in black capital letters: “Still No Arrests?” “How Come, Chief Willoughby?” And the devastating last one, “Raped While Dying.”. A battle begins. William Willough (Academy Award nominee Woody Harrelson) the police chief of the town is a family man with an adorable wife and two lovely daughters, his second-in-command Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell), a mother’s boy with a penchant for violence are against Mildred. How the gusty mother who has lost her young daughter fights with the Ebbing’s law enforcement, the clergy, the sexist mindset of the society, finds the crux of this extraordinary tale of rage that remarkably pushes its envelope from the mundane rape, revenge dramas for an unforgettable cut above experience.
Martin McDonagh uses the rage, rape, revenge theme as a tool and makes the audience meditate as he mediates his philosophy/debate on anger and how to channelize this emotion. THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI is a profound piece of cinema that is remarkably grounded and thought-provoking as well. “You’re culpable,” says Mildred to a priest who visits her house to share his and the town’s displeasure over the sensational billboards. Mildred outburst is a striking pathos on what is prescribed and what is practiced.
Even after having a protagonist, THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI is a movie that doesn’t have a dedicated antagonist. There are bad guys around and you can’t single one out.
In spirit, the movie may appear somewhat similar to Kenneth Lonergan’s brilliant redemption drama MANCHESTER BY THE SEA somewhere but it’s the exceptional quality of Martin McDonagh to infuse humor in seriously tense situations takes you to an altogether different trance.
Frances McDormand as Mildred the small town mom is a hero, she is right, fearless, stubborn, crazy and angry wearing blue jumpsuits as if she is on a war. Frances delivers an unforgettable performance that will stay for ages.
Harrelson plays the tough chief brilliantly, though the illness manipulation could have been easily avoided. After McDormand, its Sam Rockwell as the violent prone momma boy that adds tremendous weight to this rare rage saga, that takes a riveting coming of age tones with subdued heroisms. In fact, in the deeper sense, there is an undercurrent of heroisms running amongst the supporting cast as well like Sam, Harrelson and even in the character of midget played by Peter Dinklage.
On the flipside, the town created by McDonagh with the help of Ben Davis lenses and Inbal Weinberg ‘s production design is scarcely populated and the chief illness manipulation are its minor drawbacks.
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI is a rare story of rage that comes with age with an intoxicating mix of dark humour, with the pathos of grief and striking comments on feminism, machismo, and humanity. Never ever in recent years, rage has taken such dimensions and reached a point that it’s not just a barn burner it’s an exceptional tale of redemption, a soul-stirring cry.