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Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri  : Grief In A Different Packaging
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Friday, February 23, 2018
Martin McDonagh
Frances McDormand, Caleb Landry Jones, Kerry Condon, Sam Rockwell, Alejandro Barrios, Jason Redford

Easter Sunday is perfect for a resurrection.


Middle-aged Mildred Haynes hires three hoardings strategically placed outside Ebbing to resurrect a question she demands answers to. ‘Raped while dying’,‘And still no arrests?’‘How come Chief Willoughby?’ scream the three hoardings in a sequence.


Writer-director Martin McDonagh may as well have put up hoardings saying, ‘Everybody’s flawed. But they’re also good. Because they’re human’.


For that’s what ultimately stays as this is not a whodunnit with a clear result at the end of it. In its own violent, startling and sometimes amusing way, the film essentially makes its main characters bare themselves. There are no sinners, no saints as warts, worries and winsome traits surface to condemn and redeem.


Mildred is tough talking, even more tough doing. When Chief Willoughby visits her, you see a helpless policeman who hasn’t been able to crack a case with no evidence around. “There’s another thing. I have cancer,” he tells Mildred. She knows, it doesn’t make her back down.So do your job before you die, she says to him.


It’s not for lack of trying because Willoughby is a good man, the community rallies around him. Even the priest from the local church visits Mildred to pull down the billboards. He chides her that perhaps because she’s stopped going to church, she’s being misled. He gets lectured instead, you can’t verbally bully this grieving mother.


And then there’s Dickson, the black-hating cop who lives with and gets egged on by his mother. The whole town knows it and almost every conversation ends with, Dickson, go home to your mother.


Mildred isn’t righteously good either. Replaying the last time she spoke to her daughter before she stomped out and never returned alive, torments her. If she’d handled it better would Angela still be around?


There’s abrasion and affection in her equation with her son Robbie who’s having it tough in school.


Turn by turn, Willoughby, Dickson, Mildred have moments when they’re right and times when they’re not, all moving along a story as unique as billboards taking the cops to task.


If you’re looking for a story where a case is all neatly tied up and delivered, don’t feel let down. McDonagh makes sure the grief is evident without making it morose.In fact there’s humour, there’s hope, a move towards positivity that’s an interesting cinematic experience.


There are some very strong performances but it’s really Frances McDormand’s solo show. Feisty, fearless, flawed as Mildred Hayes. 


For a film that exploresgrief and human nature in an engrossing manner, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri gets a 3* rating.


Reviewed by
Bharathi S Pradhan

Senior Journalist & Author
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